Caligula boat
The hull of one of two ships previously recovered from Lake Nemi. This massive vessel served as an elaborate floating palace to the Emperor. Wiki commons

Caligula (AD 12 - 41) is remembered as one of the most tyrannical Emperors of Ancient Rome, but researchers hope to shed a new light his rule by finding remains of one of his mythical 'party boats'. According to the legend, wild orgies were thrown by Caligula on these enormous vessels.

Equipped with modern scanners, a team of divers is about to explore the muddy depths of the lake of Nemi, near the city of the same name (south of Rome).

In the late 1920s two of Emperor Caligula's boats had already been found there, when Italy's dictator Benito Mussolini ordered the level of the lake to be lowered.

Measuring between 230 and 240 feet long (70-73 metres), these two ships were among the largest in the ancient world. They were later lost in a fire in 1944, during the second world war.

The team now hopes to find the remains of a third one, previously undiscovered because it may lie hidden much deeper under water. They believe it might be even larger than the two other ships – and very luxurious.

"Every emperor had a villa, but Caligula demanded floating villas complete with columns, hot water, gold and mosaics" Nemi's mayor Alberto Bertucci told The Times.

Caligula was once a Roman Emperor, his name being a nickname that means 'little soldier’s boot' Ranker

The divers will be using a sonar to search the waters for lost artefacts combined with a scanner based on ground-penetrating sound waves to find out if anything is buried in the mud. Uncovering anything without the help of these technologies will be difficult as the mud means visibility for the divers is very low.

The exploration of the lake is expected to last 10 days.

Who was Caligula?

Gaius - better known as Caligula - was the third emperor of Rome and one of the most tyrannical according to different historical sources. His rule lasted only four years before he was assassinated by the Praetorian Guard together with his wife Caesonia and his daughter. He was 29.

The nickname Caligula ('little boots') emerged when he joined his father on military campaigns as a boy, wearing these shoes.

He started out as Emperor by being very popular. In contrast to his predecessor, he spent a lot of money and provided grandiose games for the Romans to enjoy - and he had luxurious palaces and boats constructed for himself. He is also credited for overseeing the construction of two large aqueducts in Rome.

But Caligula has gone down in history as a brutal and depraved ruler, rumoured to have thrown violent orgies and to have engaged in incest with his sisters. Some accounts describe a bloodthirsty ruler, who threw people to be eaten by wild animals during games and asked to be treated as a God.

When he was killed, very few people are said to have mourned him.