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Where Did They Find Caligula’s Priceless Mosaic?

Gaius Caesar Germanicus, more famously known as Caligula, was a cruel and highly unpredictable emperor. He was also known to enjoy worldly things, displaying his interests in various things. He even had party boats created. Most were destroyed through the years, but did you know that one particular item survived the centuries and found itself in New York?

A priceless mosaic that used to be part of the young emperor’s party boat was discovered in New York City. It served as a coffee table for a couple for almost 50 years. Historians thought the Nazis destroyed it.

Who was Caligula?

Gaius Caesar Germanicus was born in Italy on August 21, 12 CE. He was the third child of Germanicus and Agrippina the Elder, coming from Rome’s most distinguished family. He earned the name Caligula which meant Little Boot, when he frequently accompanied his father on his military campaigns. He was always seen wearing an army uniform, complete with boots tailored especially for him.

Caligula was a direct descendant of Julius Caesar and Augustus, two of the most influential and powerful Roman emperors. Caligula was born just when Augustus’ reign was ending. The emperor named Tiberius, his stepson, as heir to the throne with the condition that his grandson would be named heir after.

Tiberius took action to ensure that Germanicus’ family would not steal his throne. He executed plans to remove most of Caligula’s family from having an opportunity to snatch his reign as emperor. But since Caligula was still young, he was treated like a pampered prisoner when he was adopted.

The young heir had to suppress his emotions of hate and anger against Tiberius, and it was believed that this was one of the reasons why Caligula became so cruel. He indulged in watching tortures and executions and spent much time in orgies. Caligula ascended to the throne when he turned 24, believing that he was personally responsible for Tiberius’ death.

The public loved the young emperor, freeing citizens who his stepfather unjustly imprisoned. He also staged lavish events for the people to enjoy. However, Caligula fell ill early in his reign. By the time he recovered, the people had noticed that he was no longer the same person. Caligula abused his power, eliminating most of his political rivals. He also began dressing up as a woman and proclaiming himself as a living god.

His ways made his people despise him and arranged for his assassination. He was stabbed 30 times and dumped in a shallow grave. After his death, the senate ordered the destruction of all the things he had built in the hopes of erasing his memory from history. (Source: Biography)

Caligula’s Priceless Mosaic

Caligula’s legacy lived on despite the efforts of the senate in his time to eradicate him from history. So much so that in 2013, an Italian expert on ancient stones and marbles discovered one of Caligula’s precious artifacts.

Dario Del Bufalo, the author of the book Porphyry, was in New York to lecture about his expertise on the reddish-purple rock used by many Roman emperors in the olden times. His book included a picture of Caligula’s mosaic. The mosaic used to be part of a floor in one of the young emperor’s party ships.

The boat was sunk when Caligula died, but in the early 1930s, the mosaic and other antiquities were discovered and housed in a lakeside museum. But in the world war, Nazis burned down the museum and much of the items in there as they escaped Italy. Thought that nothing was left, Bufalo was surprised when he overheard two New Yorkers claim that the mosaic was in their possession.

Upon further investigation, Bufalo met the owner, art dealer, and gallery owner Helen Fioratti. Fioratti claims that she and her husband bought the mosaic from a noble Italian family sometime in the 1960s. It was their favorite piece because it was stunning. She claimed that it had been their coffee table for more than fifty years. (Source: The Guardian)

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