Posted Sunday morning, April 9, 2017.
Artist’s conception of one of the Emperor Caligula’s pleasure ships, the wreckage of one of which has recently been discovered at the bottom of Lake Nemi in Italy where two others were found 90 odd years ago. Detail from an illustration for a 1922 Italian magazine cover via the Washington Post.
Don’t know why, but a story about Caligula seems strangely relevant today.
The cruelty and debauchery of Rome's third emperor have remained legendary through the centuries, although scholars debate whether the more salacious details of Caligula's life were exaggerated. He came into power in A.D. 37 but fell ill in the fall of the first year of his reign and began exhibiting, by all accounts, signs of disturbing mental illness.
Ok. That’s me reading into things what I want to read into them because it satisfies my spite and malice. I don’t think you know who’s suffering from a mental illness. I think he’s just an irresponsible and self-indulgent bastard with no inclination to exercise any self-control or self-discipline. He’s got a ways to go yet before he starts rivaling Caligula.
Meanwhile, the story is interesting on its own, without any allusions to our contemporary political scene. And, at any rate, thinking about Caligula’s pleasure boasts has me thinking more about Return of the Jedi and Jabba’s sailbarge, so I’m seeing Luke swashbuckling and not Darth Donald golfing.
For nearly 2,000 years, the sunken remains of Caligula's pleasure ships tantalized divers, who launched expeditions to recover them, with little success.
It wasn't until 1927, when Italian dictator Benito Mussolini ordered Lake Nemi drained, that two of the ships began to be fully revealed. Measuring 230 and 240 feet long, the “Nemi ships” recovered over the next several years astounded researchers with their advanced technology.
At the time, however, Lake Nemi was only partly drained — and in the decades since, rumors have persisted that the remains of a third, 400-foot-long pleasure ship lurk in the deepest part of the lake.
Local fishermen report getting their nets snagged in that area of the lake, only to bring up Roman artifacts, according to the Telegraph.
“We know from documents from the 15th century that one of the boats went down in an area of the lake different to where the other two were found during the Fascist era,” Alberto Bertucci, the mayor of the town of Nemi, told the newspaper.
Questions about whether a third pleasure barge belonging to Caligula is sunken in Lake Nemi could be answered soon. Divers on Wednesday will begin scouring the muddy lake bottom for the legendary ship using sonar and other modern equipment.
“If it’s down there, and it’s that long, then we are talking about the world’s first luxury cruise ship,” Bertucci told the Times of London. “Every emperor had a villa — but Caligula demanded floating villas complete with columns, hot water, gold and mosaics.”
Indeed, the pair of Caligula's pleasure ships found during Mussolini's time as prime minister revealed palatial furnishings and advanced naval mechanisms, including bronze statues, marble floors and lead pipes marked “Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus” (Caligula's full name) that would have carried hot and cold running water, according to a 2002 Films Media Group documentary.
“The Nemi ships are very important, partly because they are the most complete wrecks of their period ever found and because of their huge size,” Italian archaeologist Marco Bonino said in the documentary. “No other wrecks, whether on land or at sea, have provided so much useful information as the Nemi ships, both about construction techniques and about naval architecture.”
But here, though, I suspect the reporter may actually be trolling the egomaniac in the White House:
Historical accounts of his authoritarian rule, bizarre requests and grandiose lifestyle depict someone who showed traces of Joffrey Baratheon from “Game of Thrones,” King Louis XVI and Scrooge McDuck.
I think she’s mixed up poor, hapless Louis XVI with his great-great-grandfather, Louis XIV, who’d fit the list better---“L’etat, c’est moi”----or else she’s using him as a substitute for his wife, Marie Antoinette. But if she'd really wanted to Troll the President, she should have compared him to a woman. That would definitely cause our Misogynist in Chief to exhibit signs of disturbing mental illness.
To read Amy B Wang’s whole article, follow the link to “Divers to scour lake for Emperor Caligula’s 2,000-year-old pleasure ship” at the Washington Post.
There are some things Wang left out, however, I’d like to know. For instance, why did Mussolini drain Lake Nemi anyway? And what’s the difference between a “World War II fire” and a fire that took place during World War II? And what sort of other “excessive indulgences” are on par with “wild orgies”?
And this isn’t something that belongs in the story but I wonder about it every time I come across the fact that the Romans had hot and cold running water---They were so good at plumbing, Caligula’s boats had it, according to Wang. How after the fall of Rome did Euopeans forget how to do it and why did it take close to 1300 years for them to re-invent it?