Remains of a lavish home and garden occupied by the indulgent Emperor Caligula have been discovered under an office building in central Rome.
Italian researchers who excavated the site found a luxury palace with an ornate garden complete with water fountains and an exotic menagerie that housed ostriches, deer and even a bear.
Artefacts taken from the site, including jewels, coins, animal bones and a metal brooch belonging to an imperial guard, are set to go on public display.
Caligula, the third leader of the Roman Empire, lived a depraved lifestyle, indulging in brazen affairs with wives of his allies and incestuous relationships with his sisters before his murder in AD 41.
Artefacts taken from the site, including jewels, coins, animal bones and a metal brooch belonging to an imperial guard
The remains lie under the offices of Enpam, a doctors’ pension institute along Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II – a piazza in south-eastern central Rome.
It’s in the area of Esquiline Hill – one of the Seven Hills of Rome upon which the city was originally built.
‘The remains tell incredible stories, starting from the animals,’ Dr Mirella Serlorenzi at the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities told the Times.
‘We have found bones from the foot of a lion, the tooth of a bear, and bones of ostriches and deer.
‘We can imagine animals running free in this enchanted landscape, but also wild animals that were used for the private circus games of the emperor.’
The team also uncovered seeds of imported exotic plants, as well as remains of a white marble staircase that linked different levels of the garden.
Shot from inside the excavation area. Caligula didn’t have the property custom-built, but took it over in the year AD 37 when he became emperor at the tender age of just 24
Bust of Emperor Caligula in Modena, Italy. He is generally considered Rome’s most tyrannical emperor. (Stock image)
‘We can imagine the Emperor Caligula walking over this monumental stairway to enjoy the spectacle of a palace,’ Dr Serlorenzi said.
Archaeologists have been working with Enpam, a doctors’ pension institute that owns the building currently in the remains of the garden, to excavate the site.
After three years digging under the offices, the exotic gardens and pavilions have been revealed.
Interiors reveal ‘lively’ frescoes – wall paintings made on wet plaster, allowing coloured pigment to be absorbed into the surface of the wall.
They’re also lined with complex marble, bearing elaborate grooves that were filled with carved pieces of marble of a different colour, according to the Times.
Caligula didn’t have the property custom-built, but took it over in the year AD 37 when he became emperor at the tender age of just 24.
The remains lie under the offices of Enpam, a doctors’ pension institute along Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II – a piazza in south-eastern central Rome
The main house and gardens were built by Lucius Aelius Lamia, a wealthy senator and consul who bequeathed his property to the estate of the emperor.
Caligula was born in AD 12 to renowned Roman general Germanicus and his wife, Agrippina the Elder.
He was given the nickname Caligula, or ‘little boot’, in reference to the tiny uniform his parents would dress him in.
Caligula’s mother and brothers died in prison after being accused of treason, after which his great-uncle Tiberius adopted him and made him and his son equal heirs to the empire.
Although his appointment was initially welcomed by Rome when he started his reign, a serious illness – possibly epilepsy or hyperthyroidism – unhinged Caligula.
As well as indulging in the carnal pleasures of sex and gluttony, Caligula would torture high-ranking senators by making them run for miles in front of his chariot.
It is also believed he used to roll around in cash and drink precious stones dissolved in vinegar.
The controversial 1979 erotic history film Caligula, recounting the rise and fall of the Roman emperor, starred Malcolm McDowell as Caligula (middle), Helen Mirren and Peter O’Toole
And he would jokingly threaten to have his the fourth and last wife, Caesonia, tortured or killed, who was said to be so beautiful Caligula paraded her naked in front of his friends.
He is quoted as having the catchphrase: ‘Remember that I have the right to do anything to anybody.’
His lavish lifestyle drained the Roman treasury faster than he could replenish it with tax and extortion.
In AD 41 Caligula was stabbed to death, along with his wife and daughter, by officers of the Praetorian Guard led by Cassius Chaerea.
In the 1979 erotic historical drama Caligula, which depicts the Roman emperor’s life, he is shown attending degrading sex shows which often involved children and deformed people.
The film, which was widely panned and described as a ‘moral holocaust’ by one critic, remains banned in its uncut form in several countries.
ARTIST USES AI TO CREATE DETAILED PORTRAITS OF ROMAN EMPERORS INCLUDING CALIGULA
Side-by-side show a modern rendering of the third emperor Caligula, against a bust in the Met Gallery
An artist has transformed the chipped stone busts of ancient Roman emperors into photorealistic portraits with the help of historical artefacts and creative software.
Daniel Voshart, from Toronto, Canada, says that his project of painstakingly colourising and shaping the faces of 54 emperors was ‘a quarantine project that got a bit out of hand’.
He released his completed work in a series of stunning portraits and posters that cover 300 years of Roman history, from Caligula to Tiberius.
The recreation of Caligula captures the youthful good looks of the young ruler, who is renowned for his extravagance and sexual perversion.
To create his portraits, Daniel used a combination of different software and sources, including statues, coins, and paintings. He even researched individual rulers to find out where they were born and their ancestry.
His main tool was a software programme called ArtBreeder, which uses a type of machine learning method called generative adversarial network (GAN) to manipulate images and add other elements into them.
‘Using the neural-net tool Artbreeder, Photoshop and historical references, I have created photoreal portraits of Roman Emperors,’ he said.
‘For this project, I have transformed, or restored (cracks, noses, ears etc.) 800 images of busts to make the 54 emperors of The Principate (27 BC to AD 285).
‘Artistic interpretations are, by their nature, more art than science but I’ve made an effort to cross-reference their appearance (hair, eyes, ethnicity etc.) to historical texts and coinage.
Academics have since praised his portraits for their realism, and Daniel now chats with history professors and PhD student who give him guidance on certain aspects like skin tone.