Such a lovely boy

In the newspapers this morning there were exciting stories about how the lost tomb of Caligula had been found. Apparently, last week officers from the archaeological squad of Italy’s tax police arrested a man near Lake Nemi, south of Rome, as he was loading part of a 2.5 metre statue into his lorry. It is known that Caligula had a villa on the shores of Lake Nemi, together with a floating temple and a floating palace. The police saw that the statue was shod witha pair of ‘caligae’, the sort of boots favoured by the emperor. His real name was Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. When young, he would accompany his father on his campaigns in Germany, wearing a miniature uniform, hence his nickname, Caligula (‘little boot’). Convinced that the statue had come from Caligula’s villa, the police questioned the thief who eventually led them to the site. But the most extraordinary aspect of the accounts from my point of view was that in Mussolini’s time the hulks of the temple and the palace were recovered from the lake bed, only to be destroyed during the war. That is how near the Roman era is to us! Caligula ruled from AD 37 to 41 – so near that the wood of his palace had not yet had time to rot away in the mud.