Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage (MiBACT) plans to open the gardens of the infamous Roman emperor Caligula to the public. Originally known as the Horti Lamiani, the gardens now lie below street level in Rome and are planned to open this Spring and display relics from the first century Emperor’s time. The Nymphaeum Museum of Piazza Vittorio, as it will be known, is the product of an archaeological dig which started in 2006 when a 19th century apartment complex was demolished.
Caligula’s imperial residence was situated on the Esquiline Hill, then at the edge of the city, now lying beneath the area around the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. The pleasure gardens included a range of villas, halls and shrines, set amongst a landscape of orchards, terraces and water features. Exotic animals were kept; some of which featured in the circus games at the Colosseum. Archaeologists discovered a rich array of finds which will offer fresh insights into the opulence of Caligula’s life. The museum promises elaborate mosaics and frescoes, and evidence suggesting that the bloodthirsty ruler’s lifestyle was even more extravagant than scholars had expected. I can’t wait to visit.