Roman Emperor Caligula's coffee table

Nov 24, 2021 141

When stains had to be cleaned from a mosaic that once decorated a lavish pleasure vessel from the first century, they were not remnants from the debauched revelries that the murderous and sex-crazed Roman Emperor Caligula used to hold on the ship. Instead, they were vestiges of modern, everyday life from a New York City apartment almost 2,000 years later. But exactly how the mosaic ended up in a Park Avenue living room is still something of a mystery. 

The mosaic is a four-and-a-half square-foot geometric piece made up of rich green and white marble and purple-red porphyry, a type of rock textured with crystals that was frequently the choice of Roman emperors. It had been part of an inlaid floor in one of the gigantic and extravagant party ships commissioned by the emperor, Caligula, a much-despised ruler whom history has described as cruel, depraved — and maybe even a little deranged.

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