Rome, Aug. 11 (Reuters): For centuries scholars have debated whether Caligula, the Roman empire’s eccentric third ruler, was a megalomaniac who dared to defy the gods or a maligned emperor whose caprices were exaggerated after his death.
Now a group of archaeologists digging up Caligula’s ancient palace say they have finally found concrete evidence that he was indeed a “maniac” who turned one of Rome’s most revered temples into the front porch of his residence.
“Everyone knows this guy was a little crazy. But now we have proof that he was completely off his rocker, that he thought he was one of the gods,” Darius Arya, one of the directors of the excavation, said today.
“It’s like someone — a president or a king or you know, Bill Gates — turning St. Peter’s into their entrance hall,” he said during a break from the dig in the Roman Forum in the heart of Italy’s capital.
Arya, director of the non-profit American Institute for Roman Culture, worked with a group of 35 young archaeologists, mostly from Stanford and Oxford universities for the initial five-week exploratory dig.
While the remains of Caligula’s palace were first excavated by archaeologists on the edge of the Forum almost a century ago, the new dig has uncovered foundations and a sewage system that prove the palace was much more massive.
Arya said the ruins showed Caligula’s sprawling residence extended into the Forum and jutted up against the Temple of Castor and Pollux just as Roman scholars who were later written off had said. “It shows the palace incorporated and took over the temple,” he said, pointing to the three soaring fluted columns that once adorned the temple.
“Caligula was really saying to the Roman people: ‘I’m living with the gods. I’m basically one of the gods and to get to my house you’ve got to pass right through (the temple).”
Ancient historians all refer to Caligula’s insanity, which brought a quick end to his rule. He had been emperor for just under four years when he was murdered by officers from the very guard entrusted to protect him in 41 AD.