There's nothing like finding that one-of-a-kind statement piece that ties the entire room together, especially if the piece in question happens to be a stolen slab of granite from an ancient Roman pleasure boat:
A priceless Roman mosaic that dates to the emperor Caligula — nearly 2,000 years ago — was shockingly used as a coffee table in a Manhattan apartment for nearly 50 years...
[Dario] Del Bufalo's 2013 book, "Porphyry," covered all about the igneous purple-red rock that Roman emperors used for their art and architecture, and the tome displayed the mosaic in question — which also contained green and white marble — that was used in flooring on Caligula's ships.
The antiquity was part of a ship that was submerged in Italy's Lake Nemi during ancient times and was recovered in the 1930s. The mosaics that remained were held in a lakeside museum and, in 1944, the Nazis infiltrated Italy and burned what was left of the ships.
When Del Bufalo was signing copies of his publication in New York in 2013, he overheard a man and a woman say she had the 4½-square-foot mosaic that he wrote about in his book.
"There was a lady with a young guy with a strange hat that came to the table," Del Bufalo told CBS, and it turned out the woman was gallery owner Helen Fioratti. "And he told her, ‘What a beautiful book. Oh, Helen, look, that's your mosaic.' And she said, ‘Yeah, that's my mosaic.' "
As it so turns out, "Helen's mosaic" was cribbed from the floor of one of the Nemi ships, ancient boats once belonging to the psychopathic emperor Caligula that were recovered in the 1920s and then burned by the Nazis during World War II.
Quite a pedigree for a coffee table!
According to Wikipedia, the ships were tricked out beyond belief:
Although the purpose of the ships is only speculated upon, the larger ship was an elaborate floating palace, which contained quantities of marble, mosaic floors, heating and plumbing and amenities such as baths.
Sounds like quite the life!
If you didn't mind putting up with Caligula's infamous depravity and sadism anyway.