Time for a look at the 12 Caesars again– one in particular– Caligula, though it’s hard to beat Suetonius’ account and Michael Graves’. Part of the fascination with this Roman emperor is from previous “classic” films (i.e., Caligula, I Claudius) and part from his somewhat enigmatic (not much remains of his actions in the archaeological record) and outrageous, brief reign (37-41). I’ve covered Gaius (as he was properly known) before in Ancients Behaving Badly (History Channel- Blink productions), a riff on antiquity’s worst rulers, but there’s so much more to say- and I was glad when NorthSouth Productions contacted me about the two hour special they are producing for History Channel.
Of course a good area to start is the Roman Forum– and place dear to my heart- with our past dig— though the true expert on site of the “Domus Gai” (Caligula’s notorious pad) is Henry Hurst of Cambridge University (recently retired) whom I happily ran into a few days ago in Campo de’ Fiori. Our work (excavation: post aedem Castoris with colleagues from classics departments at Stanford and Oxford) near Hurst’s site did launch AIRC and its eventual study abroad program, and formalized our relationship with the Italian soprintendency and Ministry of Culture. So we owe a lot to the domicile of Caligula. Our work revealed, in conjunction with Hurst’s study, that the projecting structures under the Domitianic portico of the so-called Augusteum/ library complex did indeed come very close to the back end of the Castors’ temple. Among bonuses to the dig were the remains of 7th century BC housing! Needless to say there are few places in the world with the complexity of the Forum’s stratigraphy!
So, it was a nice production this November- with filming on the Palatine, as well as a full day at Herculaneum, a beautiful setting for discussing antiquity, especially after the conclusion of the Herculaneum Conservation Project. I was pleased that a fellow local Roman- Katie Parla is also in the production, filming in Pozzuoli. Looks like a great show- due out this spring!