ROME (Reuters) – A floor mosaic from one of Roman Emperor Caligula’s opulent private ships, which was stolen after World War Two, is on its way back to Italy from the United States where it has been recovered from a private collection.
The first century AD marble, serpentine and porphyry mosaic came from one of Caligula’s ceremonial vessels, which was found at the bottom of Lake Nemi, near Rome, in the 1930s.
The artefact, stolen from Italy’s Roman Ship Museum after the war, was seized by the New York district attorney’s office from the collection of an Italian woman living in New York following an Italian police investigation.
“The United States have today given back to Italy several archaeological treasures that came from clandestine digs or thefts in our country,” Culture Minister Dario Franceschini told a news conference in New York on Friday.
“They will all be returned to the places from where the criminals took them,” he said.
Among other Roman-era items recovered was a vase from the Puglia region dating to around 350 BC, which found its way to the New York Metropolitan Museum, and two amphorae from the 4th or 5th century BC. The vase was taken from an illegal dig in the 1980s.
The artefacts presented at the news conference also included Roman coins, books and manuscripts.
Caligula, whose real name was Gaius Julius Caesar, was emperor between AD 37 and AD 41. Historical accounts describe him as an insane, violent and sadistic man who ordered killings at a whim. Legend has it that he planned to make his horse Incitatus a consul.
(Reporting By Gavin Jones; Editing by Gareth Jones)