Jan Bartek - AncientPages.com - It’s hard not to admire this stunning 2,000-year-old sapphire ring. It’s an ancient Roman treasure that is believed to have once belonged to Caligula, the third Roman emperor, ruling from 37 to 41.
Named Gaius Julius Caesar, after Julius Caesar, the Roman emperor acquired the nickname "Caligula" (meaning "little soldier's boot").
Caligula's magnificent sapphire ring is 2,000-year-old. Credit: Wartski
Caligula is today remembered as an infamous emperor who was smart but also very cruel. Among many things, he forced his contemporaries to worship him as a god, committed incest with his sisters, and wanted to make his horse a consul. Whether he was insane or not is still debated, but there is no doubt he was one of the most brutal emperors in ancient Rome. Torture and executions were a daily routine during his brief reign.
If historical accounts of Caligula’s behavior are based on real events one can say this precious ring is just as beautiful as Caligula was awful.
The sky blue hololith, made from a single piece of the precious stone is believed to depict Caesonia, Caligula’s fourth and last wife. Rumors tell she was so beautiful, the emperor told her to occasionally parade naked in front of his friends.
Caesonia must have been quite extraordinary because Suetonius, a Roman historian described her as “a woman of reckless extravagance and wantonness”
Caligula’s love story with Caesonia resulted in the birth of Julia Drusilla. Caligula was deeply in love with Caesonia and she was the emperor’s most important confidants. However, the couple was surrounded by enemies who wished to remove Caligula from power.
Caligula was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy by officers of the Praetorian Guard led by led by Cassius Chaerea along with senators, and courtiers. Caesonia and her small daughter were murdered as well. Different versions of the murder are reported. According to some sources Caligula was stabbed in the chest. Other sources tell he was pierced with a sword between the neck and shoulder.
“According to Seneca, Chaerea managed to decapitate the emperor with one blow, but many of the conspirators surrounded the emperor and thrust their swords into the corpse anyway.
Immediately following the murder Chaerea sent a tribune named Lupus to kill Caesonia and Drusilla, the emperor’s young daughter.
Reports say that the empress faced the blow courageously and that the little girl was dashed against a wall. Then Chaerea and Sabinus, fearful of what would follow, fled into the interior of the palace complex and from there, by a different route, into the city. “ 1
Caligula’s beautiful sapphire ring was part of the collection of the Earl of Arundel from 1637 to 1762, at which point it became one of the famous 'Marlborough Gems'.
Not surprisingly, the ring caused a sensation when it was made available for purchase on an auction by Royal jewelers Wartski.
“This ring is one of the prestigious 'Marlborough Gems', having previously been in the collection of the Earl of Arundel.
It is crafted entirely of sapphire. Very few hololiths exist and I would argue this is the best example you can find.
We believe it belonged to the debauched Emperor Caligula and the engraving shows his final wife Caesonia,” Kieran McCarthy, Wartski director said.
Caligula’s ring was finally sold for close to £500,000 in 2019.
Written by Jan Bartek - AncientPages.com Staff Writer
Expand for references
- Aloys Winterling - Caligula: A Biography