Bust of Caligula (image from wikipedia.org)

In a plot worthy of Indiana Jones (or maybe Angelina Jolie in a B-movie), Italian police have apprehended a man attempting to smuggle a suspicious sculpture out of Lake Nemi in the south of Rome. The man was caught loading a 2.5 meter marble sculpture into a car, in what would have been an epic getaway. But it was not to be! After examination of the statue and questioning of the thief, authorities have determined that the sculpture was stolen from Emperor Caligula’s lost tomb, a previously undiscovered site that is an exciting new archaeological find.

Who was this Emperor Caligula (born Gaius), you may ask? Well, Caligula is historically famed for being absolutely nuts. Maybe it all started out when Caligula followed his father Germanicus into war in Germania at the tender age of three years old. The child’s penchant for wearing a miniature soldier uniform, including small boots called caligae, gave rise to the nickname Caligula. After Caligula rose as emperor in 37 AD, he consolidated power, attempted reforms and finally collapsed into financial ruin, all the while providing plenty of tabloid fodder for his subjects. Just a few of Caligula’s scandals include carrying on incestuous relationships with his sisters, thinking of himself as a living god, carrying on pointless military exercises and talking to the full moon. Are any screenwriters taking notes? After a four year reign, Caligula was assassinated on January 24, 41 AD and was entombed by his sisters in the Mausoleum of Augustus.

The marble statue recovered from the Italian looter gave one undeniable clue to its provenance: on its feet were a pair of soldier’s boots, the caligae of Caligula’s namesake. The BBC reports that the would-be thief has been questioned and has lead Italian police to the site at Lake Nemi. During Caligula’s time, the lake played host to a villa of the emperor’s, as well as a floating temple and palace. Excavations at the site are expected to begin immediately. But what will the archaeologists uncover? We have a few suggestions:

  • Caligula’s unpublished memoir, 1001 Ways to Humiliate & Torture Your Friends, You Don’t Want to Know What I Suggest I Do With Your Enemies
  • A Michael Jackson-style giant fighting robot that rises out of the lake when Emperor Caligula’s help is most needed by history. I mean, he had a killing machine in the movie!
  • The papyrus transcript of Caligula’s emo Livejournal with such entries as, “Think military is rebelling against me. Had to kill them all. Mood: :(”
  • Some sweet figurative sculptures that the Metropolitan museum can steal acquire from some collectors who acquired them from some guy they met at the bar who totally didn’t dig them up, he swears.
  • A floating temple. Because that sounds awesome.

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Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...

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