London, October 18 : A team of archaeologists has claimed to have found the underground passage in which the Roman Emperor Caligula was murdered by his own Praetorian Guard to put an end to his deranged reign of terror.
Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (AD12-AD41), known by his nickname Caligula (Little Boots), was the third emperor of the Roman Empire after Augustus and Tiberius, and like them a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty.
His assassination was the result of a conspiracy by members of the Senate who hoped to restore the Roman Republic. However, the Praetorian Guard declared Caligula's uncle Claudius emperor instead, thus preserving the monarchy.
Now, according to a report in the Times, Maria Antonietta Tomei, a Rome archeologist, has said that a cryptoportico or underground corridor discovered beneath the imperial palaces on the Palatine Hill, matched exactly the description given by the Rome historian Suetonius, who said that the Emperor was stabbed to death.
He left via the passageway, where the Praetorian Guard led by its commander, Cassius Chaerea, was lying in wait.
Professor Tomei said that she was "absolutely convinced" that the cryptportico was the one in which Caligula met his end.
Although it bore builders' stamps from the time of Claudius, it already existed at the time of Caligula, and had only been restructured by his uncle and successor.
"It is clear that it was Claudius and not Nero, as commonly thought, who gave shape to the imperial palace complex on the Palatine Hill," said Tomei.
According to Suetonius and the Jewish historian Josephus, Caligula's assassins also stabbed to death his wife, Caesonia, and killed their infant daughter, Julia Drusilla, by smashing her head against a wall.
Caligula's body was burnt and the ashes interred at the Mausoleum of Augustus, which is still standing near the Tiber.
Now a ruin, its tombs were ransacked during the Barbarian invasions of the fifth century.
Unlike his father Germanicus, a widely admired and upright Roman general, Caligula became a byword for cruelty, excess, insanity and sexual perversion.
His nickname derived from the fact that as a small boy he dressed up in a miniature uniform while accompanying his father on military campaigns.