Nemi Ships

July 27, 2010 / Art & Archaeology
Nemi, Lazio
nemiships4The town of Nemi sits on the northern rim of an ancient lake filled crater, affording a beautiful view of the lake below. Made famous by its two sunken Roman pleasure ships, sailed by the emperors Tiberius and Caligula during the first century A D, this is a town rich in history and an easy drive from Rome.

For many centuries, tales of these two Roman galleys resting on the lake bottom led to unsuccessful attempts to raise them. Raided by divers in 1895, the water level was lowered and the ships finally raised after Benito Mussolini ordered the lake to be drained in 1927.

nemiships2These ancient ships measure 210 by 66 ft. and 233 by 80 ft. Many of the objects found on the ships can be seen in museums in Rome, although the ships themselves were burned by the retreating German army on May 31, 1944. Today, replicas and artifacts of the ships sit on the shore of the lake in a museum built specifically for them.



Evanne Brandon-Diner

by Evanne Brandon-Diner

Chronicler of local village life in Northern Lazio, and property restoration and purchasing consultant.

7 Responses to “Nemi Ships”

  1. The lake at Nemi in the Alban Hills was called by ancient Romans “Diana’s Mirror” – “Lo specchio di Diana” in italiano. Above the lake sat the Temple of Diana, goddess of the hunt and of the moon.
    Delightful walking paths go along the sides of the ancient crater, Lake Nemi.
    The town of Nemi was founded in 321 A.D. when worship of Diana had ceased. Marble and stone from the temple was recycled into the town’s buildings. Only 21 miles southeast of Roma, Nemi is accessible by car or bus.
    A castle was built to fortify the town. Many different noble families ruled and enlarged the castle. In 1902 the Ruspoli family became the owners.
    I need to return to see the new museum. What an amazing project…and reminder of the cruelty of a civilized people who enjoyed watching others die. Jaded by the gory spectacles in the Colosseum, the emperors wanted to see people drown. They spent a fortune on the ships that carried slaves and convicts to their deaths. Crowds traveled from Rome to share the fun.

  2. I’ve enjoyed un bel pranzo many times while looking out over this lake. So few tourists every get to experience the many splendors of the Castelli Romani – history in every nook and cranny, wonderful food around every corner and up every hill, and a place to breathe deeply after the energy and frenzy of Rome.

  3. Connie

    Helen, are you OK dear? Do you honestly believe we are any different today? Look closer…closer still… keep looking, with great effort and immense empathy, in time you will train your eyes to see the nature of the beast do it’s evil deeds in modern day highly cicilized places. We are coditionned as such, we don’t see it. The Roman’s didn’t either.

  4. carol dunn

    this comment is about the IN in general. I am so impressed with it, and read each one eagerly. sorry that you guys get to have a month’s vacation, but I look forward to its resumption in september. thanks.


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