Caligula’s Long-Hidden Garden To Open As New Subterranean Gallery In Rome

caligulas long hidden garden to open as new subterranean gallery in rome

Malcolm McDowell as Emperor Caligula in the film Caligula, My Son. 1979. (Photo by Mondadori via … [+] Getty Images) Mondadori via Getty Images

Known as quite the despot, Roman Emperor Caligula had extravagant tastes to which his exotic pleasure garden was a testament. Buried for centuries beneath Rome’s streets, the remains of the lavish Horti Lamiani will be visitable by the public this spring. 

Emperor from 37 to 41 CE, Caligula was notorious for his tyrannical behavior, a much propagated reputation but one which is often disputed by historians. His luxurious streak, however, is immortalized in the remaining artifacts of his Horti Lamiani garden of delights, a monumental compound of villas, shrines, and a bathhouse encircled by curated, exotic landscapes. 

Discovered beneath the earth are remnants of this imperial park: rich marble floors, pavilions, fountains and vibrant frescoes. These lavishly decorated spaces would also once have been home to prowling lions, majestic peacocks and other exotic animals.  

The archeological remains will open to the public in spring in the form of a subterranean gallery named the Nymphaeum Museum of Piazza Vittorio. Managed by Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Cultural Activities and Tourism, the museum will display elements of the house and garden including a marble staircase and opulent frescoes. Historian Daisy Dunn told the New York Times, “The frescoes are incredibly ornate and of a very high decorative standard. Given the descriptions of Caligula’s licentious lifestyle and appetite for luxury, we might have expected the designs to be quite gauche.” 

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