During the closing months of World War II, two colossal Roman ceremonial barges were destroyed when the museum that housed them went on fire.
The vessels were unique archaeological treasures, 2000 years old. They had been retrieved  - practically intact - from the bottom of the tiny crater lake of Nemi in the Alban Hills near Rome. The recovery operation, which involved draining the lake, easing the fragile relics out of their muddy bed and bringing them safely to dry land, was in  itself an amazing feat, acclaimed by the world press. 
The.purpose of these ships – huge constructions some 70 metres long, lying in a remote little stretch of water surrounded by thick forest – is still largely a mystery. A wealth of precious material recovered from the lake bed proved that the decks had originally been covered with palatial buildings. It is believed they may have been cult ships, dedicated to the goddess Diana, who had a magnificent temple on the lake shore. Who built them and why had they been abandoned and sunk?
Writer and journalist Margaret Stenhouse recounts the fascinating story of these ships and their tragic fate and examines the various theories regarding their origin. Were they the work of the mad Caligula – and was he really mad? Or were they built by the “idiotic” (but scholarly) Claudius? 

The Lost Ships of Nemi by Margaret Stenhouse:
96 pages. Colour and b&w illustrations. €10 + postage