Submerged near Naples, awaits an underwater archaeological treasure where once the Romans drank, plotted and flirted while on vacation, in a festive town called Baiae, and where now fish flock to mosaic floors and ruined villas .
The statues that once adorned the luxury mansions of this resort town are now crab playgrounds off the coast of Italy, where divers can explore the palace ruins and domed public baths built for the emperors.
The nobility of Rome was first attracted in the 2nd century BC.
Seven emperors, including Augustus and Nero, had villas there, as did Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. The poet Sextus Properce described the city as a place of vice, which was “the enemy of virtuous creatures”.
This is where “old men behave like young boys, and many young boys act like young girls,” according to the Roman scholar Varro.
But by the 4th century the porticoes, marble columns, sanctuaries and ornamental fish ponds had started to sink due to Bradyseism, the gradual rise and fall of land due to hydrothermal activity and seismic.
The entire area, including the nearby commercial capital of Pozzuoli and the military headquarters of Misene, was submerged. Their ruins now lie between 4 and 6 meters (15 to 20 feet) underwater.
“It is difficult, especially for those who are coming for the first time, to imagine that you can find things that you could never see elsewhere in the world just a few meters of water,” said Marcello. Bertolaso, responsible for Campi Flegrei. diving center, which shows tourists around the site.
“Divers love to see very special things, but what you can see in Baiae Park is something unique.”
The 177-hectare (437-acre) underwater site has been a marine protected area since 2002, after decades of antiquities found in fishermen’s nets and looters had carte blanche.
Divers must be accompanied by a licensed guide.
A careful sweep of the sand near a low wall uncovers a magnificent mosaic floor from a villa once owned by Gaius Calpurnius Pisoni, known to have spent his days here conspiring against Emperor Nero.
Explorers follow the ancient stones of the coastal road past the ruins of spas and shops, the sunlight on a clear day piercing the waves to illuminate the statues. They are replicas; the originals are now in a museum.
“When we are looking for new areas, we gently remove the sand where we know there might be soil, we document it, and then we cover it,” archaeologist Enrico Gallocchio told AFPTV.
“If we don’t do this, marine life will attack the ruins. The sand protects them,” said Gallocchio, head of Baiae Park.
“The large ruins were easily discovered by moving a little sand, but there are areas where the sandbanks could reach meters deep. There are undoubtedly still ancient relics to be found,” he said. -he declares.