Elagabalus

Elagabalus

Overview
Elagabalus also known as Heliogabalus, was Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

 from 218 to 222. A member of the Severan Dynasty
Severan dynasty
The Severan dynasty was a Roman imperial dynasty, which ruled the Roman Empire between 193 and 235. The dynasty was founded by the Roman general Septimius Severus, who rose to power during the civil war of 193, known as the Year of the Five Emperors....

, he was Syrian
Syria (Roman province)
Syria was a Roman province, annexed in 64 BC by Pompey, as a consequence of his military presence after pursuing victory in the Third Mithridatic War. It remained under Roman, and subsequently Byzantine, rule for seven centuries, until 637 when it fell to the Islamic conquests.- Principate :The...

 on his mother's side, the son of Julia Soaemias
Julia Soaemias
Julia Soaemias Bassiana was the mother of Roman Emperor Elagabalus and ruled over the Roman Empire during the minority of her son's rule....

 and Sextus Varius Marcellus
Sextus Varius Marcellus
Sextus Varius Marcellus was a Roman of equestris class, but was later elevated to the rank of senator.Although he had little administrative experience he was related to Septimius Severus and the new emperor sent him to Roman Britain in 197 to assist Virius Lupus in rebuilding the province...

. Early in his youth he served as a priest of the god El-Gabal at his hometown, Emesa. Upon becoming emperor he took the name Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus and was called Elagabalus only after his death.

In 217, the emperor Caracalla
Caracalla
Caracalla , was Roman emperor from 198 to 217. The eldest son of Septimius Severus, he ruled jointly with his younger brother Geta until he murdered the latter in 211...

 was assassinated and replaced by his Praetorian prefect
Praetorian prefect
Praetorian prefect was the title of a high office in the Roman Empire. Originating as the commander of the Praetorian Guard, the office gradually acquired extensive legal and administrative functions, with its holders becoming the Emperor's chief aides...

, Marcus Opellius Macrinus
Macrinus
Macrinus , was Roman Emperor from 217 to 218. Macrinus was of "Moorish" descent and the first emperor to become so without membership in the senatorial class.-Background and career:...

.
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Quotations

He undertook to disparage my age, when he himself had appointed his five-year-old son.

Referring to the Emperor Macrinus|Macrinus and his declaration of his son Diadumenian|Diadumenianus to be '"Caesar (title)|Ceasar". The head of Diadumenianus was presented to Elagabalus as a trophy.

I am emperor. It is I who know what is best for Rome. Not you traitors. Now, let go of my horses!

Let my mother be.

Last words
Encyclopedia
Elagabalus also known as Heliogabalus, was Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

 from 218 to 222. A member of the Severan Dynasty
Severan dynasty
The Severan dynasty was a Roman imperial dynasty, which ruled the Roman Empire between 193 and 235. The dynasty was founded by the Roman general Septimius Severus, who rose to power during the civil war of 193, known as the Year of the Five Emperors....

, he was Syrian
Syria (Roman province)
Syria was a Roman province, annexed in 64 BC by Pompey, as a consequence of his military presence after pursuing victory in the Third Mithridatic War. It remained under Roman, and subsequently Byzantine, rule for seven centuries, until 637 when it fell to the Islamic conquests.- Principate :The...

 on his mother's side, the son of Julia Soaemias
Julia Soaemias
Julia Soaemias Bassiana was the mother of Roman Emperor Elagabalus and ruled over the Roman Empire during the minority of her son's rule....

 and Sextus Varius Marcellus
Sextus Varius Marcellus
Sextus Varius Marcellus was a Roman of equestris class, but was later elevated to the rank of senator.Although he had little administrative experience he was related to Septimius Severus and the new emperor sent him to Roman Britain in 197 to assist Virius Lupus in rebuilding the province...

. Early in his youth he served as a priest of the god El-Gabal at his hometown, Emesa. Upon becoming emperor he took the name Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus and was called Elagabalus only after his death.

In 217, the emperor Caracalla
Caracalla
Caracalla , was Roman emperor from 198 to 217. The eldest son of Septimius Severus, he ruled jointly with his younger brother Geta until he murdered the latter in 211...

 was assassinated and replaced by his Praetorian prefect
Praetorian prefect
Praetorian prefect was the title of a high office in the Roman Empire. Originating as the commander of the Praetorian Guard, the office gradually acquired extensive legal and administrative functions, with its holders becoming the Emperor's chief aides...

, Marcus Opellius Macrinus
Macrinus
Macrinus , was Roman Emperor from 217 to 218. Macrinus was of "Moorish" descent and the first emperor to become so without membership in the senatorial class.-Background and career:...

. Caracalla's maternal aunt, Julia Maesa
Julia Maesa
Julia Maesa was a Roman citizen and daughter of Julius Bassianus, priest of the sun god Heliogabalus, the patron god of Emesa in the Roman province of Syria...

, successfully instigated a revolt among the Third Legion
Legio III Gallica
Legio tertia Gallica was a Roman legion levied by Julius Caesar around 49 BC, for his civil war against the conservative republicans led by Pompey. The cognomen Gallica suggests that recruits were originally from the Gallic Roman provinces. The legion was still active in Egypt in the early 4th...

 to have her eldest grandson, Elagabalus, declared emperor in his place. Macrinus was defeated on June 8, 218, at the Battle of Antioch
Battle of Antioch (218)
The Battle of Antioch took place between two Roman armies of the Roman Emperor Macrinus and his contender Elagabalus, whose troops were commanded by general Gannys. Elagabalus won and was crowned emperor.- History :...

, upon which Elagabalus, barely fourteen years old, ascended to the imperial power and began a reign that was marred by infamous controversies.

During his rule, Elagabalus showed a disregard for Roman religious traditions and sexual taboos. He replaced the traditional head of the Roman pantheon
Roman mythology
Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans...

, Jupiter, with a lesser god, Deus Sol Invictus
Sol Invictus
Sol Invictus was the official sun god of the later Roman empire. In 274 Aurelian made it an official cult alongside the traditional Roman cults. Scholars disagree whether the new deity was a refoundation of the ancient Latin cult of Sol, a revival of the cult of Elagabalus or completely new...

(in Greek: Helios, hence the name Heliogabalos), and forced leading members of Rome's government to participate in religious rites celebrating this deity, which he personally led. Elagabalus was married as many as five times, lavished favours on courtiers popularly assumed to have been his homosexual lovers, employed whoopie cushions at dinner parties and was reported to have prostituted himself in the imperial palace. His reputed behaviour infuriated the Praetorian Guard
Praetorian Guard
The Praetorian Guard was a force of bodyguards used by Roman Emperors. The title was already used during the Roman Republic for the guards of Roman generals, at least since the rise to prominence of the Scipio family around 275 BC...

, the Senate
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

 and the common people alike.

Amidst growing opposition, Elagabalus, only 18 years old, was assassinated and replaced by his cousin Alexander Severus
Alexander Severus
Severus Alexander was Roman Emperor from 222 to 235. Alexander was the last emperor of the Severan dynasty. He succeeded his cousin Elagabalus upon the latter's assassination in 222, and was ultimately assassinated himself, marking the epoch event for the Crisis of the Third Century — nearly fifty...

 on March 11, 222, in a plot formed by his grandmother, Julia Maesa
Julia Maesa
Julia Maesa was a Roman citizen and daughter of Julius Bassianus, priest of the sun god Heliogabalus, the patron god of Emesa in the Roman province of Syria...

, and disgruntled members of the Praetorian Guard.

Elagabalus developed a reputation among his contemporaries for extreme eccentricity, decadence and zealotry which was likely exaggerated by his successors and political rivals. This likely propaganda was passed on and, as a result, he was one of the most reviled Roman emperors to early historians. For example, Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon was an English historian and Member of Parliament...

 wrote that Elagabalus "abandoned himself to the grossest pleasures and ungoverned fury." "The name Elagabalus is branded in history above all others" because of his "unspeakably disgusting life," wrote B.G. Niebuhr
Barthold Georg Niebuhr
Barthold Georg Niebuhr was a Danish-German statesman and historian who became Germany's leading historian of Ancient Rome and a founding father of modern scholarly historiography. Classical Rome caught the admiration of German thinkers...

.

Family


Elagabalus was born around the year 203 as Varius Avitus Bassianus to the family of Sextus Varius Marcellus
Sextus Varius Marcellus
Sextus Varius Marcellus was a Roman of equestris class, but was later elevated to the rank of senator.Although he had little administrative experience he was related to Septimius Severus and the new emperor sent him to Roman Britain in 197 to assist Virius Lupus in rebuilding the province...

 and Julia Soaemias Bassiana
Julia Soaemias
Julia Soaemias Bassiana was the mother of Roman Emperor Elagabalus and ruled over the Roman Empire during the minority of her son's rule....

. His father was initially a member of the equestrian
Equestrian (Roman)
The Roman equestrian order constituted the lower of the two aristocratic classes of ancient Rome, ranking below the patricians , a hereditary caste that monopolised political power during the regal era and during the early Republic . A member of the equestrian order was known as an eques...

 class, but was later elevated to the rank of senator
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

. His grandmother Julia Maesa
Julia Maesa
Julia Maesa was a Roman citizen and daughter of Julius Bassianus, priest of the sun god Heliogabalus, the patron god of Emesa in the Roman province of Syria...

 was the widow of the Consul
Consul
Consul was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. The title was also used in other city states and also revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic...

 Julius Avitus
Julius Avitus
Julius Avitus or his full name Gaius Julius Avitus Alexianus, was a Syrian noble that lived in the 2nd century and 3rd century CE. He was born in Emesa...

, the sister of Julia Domna
Julia Domna
Julia Domna was a member of the Severan dynasty of the Roman Empire. Empress and wife of Roman Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus and mother of Emperors Geta and Caracalla, Julia was among the most important women ever to exercise power behind the throne in the Roman Empire.- Family background...

, and the sister-in-law of emperor Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus , also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of...

. Julia Soaemias was a cousin of Roman emperor Caracalla
Caracalla
Caracalla , was Roman emperor from 198 to 217. The eldest son of Septimius Severus, he ruled jointly with his younger brother Geta until he murdered the latter in 211...

. Other relatives included his aunt Julia Avita Mamaea
Julia Avita Mamaea
Julia Avita Mamaea was the second daughter of Julia Maesa, a powerful Roman woman of Syrian origin and Syrian noble Julius Avitus. She was a niece of empress Julia Domna and emperor Septimius Severus and sister of Julia Soaemias...

 and uncle Marcus Julius Gessius Marcianus
Marcus Julius Gessius Marcianus
Marcus Julius Gessius Marcianus was a Syrian who lived in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. He originally came from Arca Caesarea . Marcianus' career had advanced to the Equestrian order and he became a Promagistrate....

 and their son Alexander Severus
Alexander Severus
Severus Alexander was Roman Emperor from 222 to 235. Alexander was the last emperor of the Severan dynasty. He succeeded his cousin Elagabalus upon the latter's assassination in 222, and was ultimately assassinated himself, marking the epoch event for the Crisis of the Third Century — nearly fifty...

. Elagabalus's family held hereditary rights to the priesthood of the sun god El-Gabal, of whom Elagabalus was the high priest
High priest
The term "high priest" usually refers either to an individual who holds the office of ruler-priest, or to one who is the head of a religious caste.-Ancient Egypt:...

 at Emesa (modern Homs
Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

) in Syria
Syria (Roman province)
Syria was a Roman province, annexed in 64 BC by Pompey, as a consequence of his military presence after pursuing victory in the Third Mithridatic War. It remained under Roman, and subsequently Byzantine, rule for seven centuries, until 637 when it fell to the Islamic conquests.- Principate :The...

.

Elagabalus was initially venerated at Emesa. The name is the Latinized form of the Syrian Ilāh hag-Gabal, which derives from Ilāh
El (god)
is a Northwest Semitic word meaning "deity", cognate to Akkadian and then to Hebrew : Eli and Arabic )....

 ("god") and gabal ("mountain" (compare bul and jabal)), resulting in "the God of the Mountain" the Emesene manifestation of the deity. The cult of the deity spread to other parts of the Roman Empire in the 2nd century. For example, a dedication has been found as far away as Woerden
Woerden
Woerden is a municipality and a city in the central Netherlands. Due to its central location between Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht, and the fact that it has excellent rail and road connections to those cities, it is a popular town for commuters who work in those cities.-Population...

 (Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

). The god was later imported and assimilated with the Roman sun god, who was known as Sol Indiges in republican
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 times and as Sol Invictus
Sol Invictus
Sol Invictus was the official sun god of the later Roman empire. In 274 Aurelian made it an official cult alongside the traditional Roman cults. Scholars disagree whether the new deity was a refoundation of the ancient Latin cult of Sol, a revival of the cult of Elagabalus or completely new...

 during the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Avitus adopted the name of the god, being styled Elagabalus.

Rise to power


When the emperor Macrinus
Macrinus
Macrinus , was Roman Emperor from 217 to 218. Macrinus was of "Moorish" descent and the first emperor to become so without membership in the senatorial class.-Background and career:...

 came to power, he suppressed the threat against his reign by the family of his assassinated predecessor, Caracalla, by exiling them—Julia Maesa, her two daughters, and her eldest grandson Elagabalus—to their estate at Emesa in Syria
Syria (Roman province)
Syria was a Roman province, annexed in 64 BC by Pompey, as a consequence of his military presence after pursuing victory in the Third Mithridatic War. It remained under Roman, and subsequently Byzantine, rule for seven centuries, until 637 when it fell to the Islamic conquests.- Principate :The...

. Almost upon arrival in Syria she began a plot, with her eunuch advisor and Elagabalus' tutor Gannys, to overthrow Macrinus and elevate the fourteen-year-old Elagabalus as emperor. Elagabalus and his mother readily complied and announced, falsely, that he was the illegitimate son of Caracalla, therefore due the loyalties of Roman soldiers and senators who had sworn allegiance to Caracalla. After Julia Maesa displayed her wealth to the Third Legion
Legio III Gallica
Legio tertia Gallica was a Roman legion levied by Julius Caesar around 49 BC, for his civil war against the conservative republicans led by Pompey. The cognomen Gallica suggests that recruits were originally from the Gallic Roman provinces. The legion was still active in Egypt in the early 4th...

 at Raphana
Raphana
Raphana, in present-day north of Jordan, was a city of the Decapolis. It is thought to lie north of Umm Qais in the Abilene plain.The city was the base camp of the Roman legions Legio III Gallica and of Legio XII Fulminata.-References:*...

 they swore allegiance to Elagabalus. At sunrise on May 16, 218, Publius Valerius Comazon Eutychianus
Valerius Comazon Eutychianus
Publius Valerius Comazon Eutychianus was a Roman general and ally of emperor Elagabalus. Upon the accession of Macrinus as emperor in 217, Eutychianus orchestrated a revolt among the Third Legion to help secure the throne for Elagabalus, who was tied to the Severan dynasty...

, commander of the legion, declared him emperor. To strengthen his legitimacy through further propaganda, Elagabalus assumed Caracalla's names, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.

In response Macrinus dispatched his Praetorian prefect
Praetorian prefect
Praetorian prefect was the title of a high office in the Roman Empire. Originating as the commander of the Praetorian Guard, the office gradually acquired extensive legal and administrative functions, with its holders becoming the Emperor's chief aides...

 Ulpius Julianus to the region with a contingent of troops he considered strong enough to crush the rebellion
Rebellion
Rebellion, uprising or insurrection, is a refusal of obedience or order. It may, therefore, be seen as encompassing a range of behaviors aimed at destroying or replacing an established authority such as a government or a head of state...

. However, this force soon joined the faction of Elagabalus when, during the battle, they turned on their own commanders. The officers were killed and Julianus' head was sent back to the emperor. Macrinus now sent letters to the Senate
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

 denouncing Elagabalus as the False Antoninus and claiming he was insane. Both consul
Consul
Consul was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. The title was also used in other city states and also revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic...

s and other high ranking members of Rome's leadership condemned him, and the Senate subsequently declared war on both Elagabalus and Julia Maesa.

Macrinus and his son, weakened by the desertion of the Second Legion
Legio II Parthica
Legio secunda Parthica was a Roman legion levied by Emperor Septimius Severus in 197, for his campaign against the Parthian Empire, hence the cognomen Parthica. The legion was still active in the beginning of the 5th century...

 due to bribes and promises circulated by Julia Maesa, were defeated on June 8, 218 at the Battle of Antioch
Battle of Antioch (218)
The Battle of Antioch took place between two Roman armies of the Roman Emperor Macrinus and his contender Elagabalus, whose troops were commanded by general Gannys. Elagabalus won and was crowned emperor.- History :...

 by troops commanded by Gannys. Macrinus fled toward Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, disguised as a courier, but was later intercepted near Chalcedon
Chalcedon
Chalcedon , sometimes transliterated as Chalkedon) was an ancient maritime town of Bithynia, in Asia Minor, almost directly opposite Byzantium, south of Scutari . It is now a district of the city of Istanbul named Kadıköy...

 and executed in Cappadocia
Cappadocia
Cappadocia is a historical region in Central Anatolia, largely in Nevşehir Province.In the time of Herodotus, the Cappadocians were reported as occupying the whole region from Mount Taurus to the vicinity of the Euxine...

. His son Diadumenianus, sent for safety to the Parthia
Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

n court, was captured at Zeugma and also put to death.

Elagabalus declared the date of the victory at Antioch to be the beginning of his reign and assumed the imperial titles without prior senatorial approval, which violated tradition but was a common practice among 3rd-century emperors nonetheless. Letters of reconciliation were dispatched to Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 extending amnesty
Amnesty
Amnesty is a legislative or executive act by which a state restores those who may have been guilty of an offense against it to the positions of innocent people, without changing the laws defining the offense. It includes more than pardon, in as much as it obliterates all legal remembrance of the...

 to the Senate and recognizing the laws, while also condemning the administration of Macrinus and his son. The senators responded by acknowledging Elagabalus as emperor and accepting his claim to be the son of Caracalla. Caracalla and Julia Domna were both deified
Imperial cult (Ancient Rome)
The Imperial cult of ancient Rome identified emperors and some members of their families with the divinely sanctioned authority of the Roman State...

 by the Senate, both Julia Maesa and Julia Soaemias were elevated to the rank of Augustae
Augustus (honorific)
Augustus , Latin for "majestic," "the increaser," or "venerable", was an Ancient Roman title, which was first held by Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus , and subsequently came to be considered one of the titles of what are now known as the Roman Emperors...

, and the memory of Macrinus and Diadumenianus was condemned and vilified by the Senate. The former commander of the Third Legion, Comazon, was appointed to be commander of the Praetorian Guard.

First year


Elagabalus and his entourage spent the winter of 218 in Bithynia
Bithynia
Bithynia was an ancient region, kingdom and Roman province in the northwest of Asia Minor, adjoining the Propontis, the Thracian Bosporus and the Euxine .-Description:...

 at Nicomedia
Nicomedia
Nicomedia was an ancient city in what is now Turkey, founded in 712/11 BC as a Megarian colony and was originally known as Astacus . After being destroyed by Lysimachus, it was rebuilt by Nicomedes I of Bithynia in 264 BC under the name of Nicomedia, and has ever since been one of the most...

, where the emperor's religious beliefs first manifested themselves as a problem. The contemporary historian Cassius Dio suggests that Gannys was in fact killed by the new emperor because he was forcing Elagabalus to live "temperately and prudently." To help Romans adjust to the idea of having an oriental priest as emperor, Julia Maesa had a painting of Elagabalus in priestly robes sent to Rome and hung over a statue of the goddess Victoria
Victoria (mythology)
In ancient Roman religion, Victoria was the personified goddess of victory. She is the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Nike, and was associated with Bellona. She was adapted from the Sabine agricultural goddess Vacuna and had a temple on the Palatine Hill...

 in the Senate House
Curia Julia
The Curia Hostilia was one of the original senate houses or 'curia' of the Roman Republic. It is believed to have begun as an Etruscan temple where the warring tribes laid down their arms during the reign of Romulus . During the early kingdom, the temple was for the use of the Senators who acted as...

. This placed senators in the awkward position of having to make offerings to Elagabalus whenever they made offerings to Victoria.

The legions were dismayed at his behaviour and quickly came to regret their decision to have him supported as emperor. While Elagabalus was still on his way to Rome, brief revolts broke out by the Fourth Legion
Legio IV Scythica
Legio quarta Scythica was a Roman legion levied by Mark Antony around 42 BC, for his campaign against the Parthian Empire, hence its other cognomen, Parthica. The legion was still active in Syria in the early 5th century...

, at the instigation of Gellius Maximus
Gellius Maximus
Gellius Maximus was a Roman usurper against Emperor Elagabalus.Gellius Maximus was the son of a physician and a member of the senate. He served as an officer in Legio IV Scythica in Syria and took advantage of the turmoil during the reign of Elagabalus to proclaim himself emperor. The rebellion...

, and the Third Legion, which itself had been responsible for the accession of Elagabalus as emperor, under command of Senator Verus
Verus (senator)
Verus was a Roman usurper.Verus was a centurion, who had successfully raised to the rank of Roman Senator. He was the commander of the Legio III Gallica, a legion located in Syria, which supported Elagabalus bid for power ....

. The rebellion was quickly struck down, and the Third Legion disbanded.

When the entourage reached Rome in the autumn of 219, Comazon and other allies of Julia Maesa and Elagabalus were given powerful and lucrative positions, much to the outrage of many senators who did not consider them to be respectable. After his tenure as Praetorian prefect
Praetorian prefect
Praetorian prefect was the title of a high office in the Roman Empire. Originating as the commander of the Praetorian Guard, the office gradually acquired extensive legal and administrative functions, with its holders becoming the Emperor's chief aides...

, Comazon would serve as the city prefect of Rome three times, and as consul
Roman consul
A consul served in the highest elected political office of the Roman Republic.Each year, two consuls were elected together, to serve for a one-year term. Each consul was given veto power over his colleague and the officials would alternate each month...

 twice. Elagabalus soon devalued the Roman currency
Roman currency
The Roman currency during most of the Roman Republic and the western half of the Roman Empire consisted of coins including the aureus , the denarius , the sestertius , the dupondius , and the as...

. He decreased the silver purity of the denarius
Denarius
In the Roman currency system, the denarius was a small silver coin first minted in 211 BC. It was the most common coin produced for circulation but was slowly debased until its replacement by the antoninianus...

from 58% to 46.5% — the actual silver weight dropping from 1.82 grams to 1.41 grams. He also demonetized the antoninianus
Antoninianus
The antoninianus was a coin used during the Roman Empire thought to have been valued at 2 denarii. It was initially silver, but was slowly debased to bronze. The coin was introduced by Caracalla in early 215 and was a silver coin similar to the denarius except that it was slightly larger and...

during this period in Rome. Elagabalus tried to have his presumed lover, the charioteer Hierocles
Hierocles (charioteer)
Hierocles was reputedly a favorite and lover of the Roman emperor Elagabalus. He was from Caria and was at some point enslaved and became a charioteer in the service of Elagabalus...

, declared Caesar
Caesar (title)
Caesar is a title of imperial character. It derives from the cognomen of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator...

, while another alleged lover, the athlete Aurelius Zoticus, was appointed to the non-administrative but influential position of Cubicularius
Cubicularius
Cubicularius, Hellenized as koubikoularios , was a title used for the eunuch chamberlains of the imperial palace in the later Roman Empire and in the Byzantine Empire...

. His offer of amnesty for the Roman leadership was largely honored, though the jurist
Jurist
A jurist or jurisconsult is a professional who studies, develops, applies, or otherwise deals with the law. The term is widely used in American English, but in the United Kingdom and many Commonwealth countries it has only historical and specialist usage...

 Ulpian
Ulpian
Gnaeus Domitius Annius Ulpianus , anglicized as Ulpian, was a Roman jurist of Tyrian ancestry.-Biography:The exact time and place of his birth are unknown, but the period of his literary activity was between AD 211 and 222...

 was exiled.

The relationships between Julia Maesa, Julia Soaemias, and Elagabalus were strong, at first. His mother and grandmother became the first women to be allowed into the Senate, and both received senatorial titles: Soaemias the established title of Clarissima and Maesa the more unorthodox Mater Castrorum et Senatus. While Julia Maesa tried to position herself as the power behind the throne and subsequently the most powerful woman in the world, Elagabalus would prove to be highly independent, set in his ways, and impossible to control.

Religious controversy


Since the reign of Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus , also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of...

, sun worship had increased throughout the Empire. Elagabalus saw this as an opportunity to install El-Gabal as the chief deity of the Roman Pantheon. The god was renamed Deus Sol Invictus
Sol Invictus
Sol Invictus was the official sun god of the later Roman empire. In 274 Aurelian made it an official cult alongside the traditional Roman cults. Scholars disagree whether the new deity was a refoundation of the ancient Latin cult of Sol, a revival of the cult of Elagabalus or completely new...

, meaning God the Undefeated Sun, and placed over Jupiter. As a sign of the union with the Roman religion, Elagabalus gave either Astarte
Astarte
Astarte is the Greek name of a goddess known throughout the Eastern Mediterranean from the Bronze Age to Classical times...

, Minerva
Minerva
Minerva was the Roman goddess whom Romans from the 2nd century BC onwards equated with the Greek goddess Athena. She was the virgin goddess of poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts, magic...

, Urania
Urania
Urania was, in Greek mythology, the muse of astronomy. Some accounts list her as the mother of the musician Linus. She is usually depicted with a globe in her left hand. She is able to foretell the future by the arrangement of the stars...

, or some combination of the three, to El-Gabal as a wife.

He provoked further outrage when he himself married the Vestal Virgin
Vestal Virgin
In ancient Roman religion, the Vestals or Vestal Virgins , were priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the hearth. The College of the Vestals and its well-being was regarded as fundamental to the continuance and security of Rome, as embodied by their cultivation of the sacred fire that could not be...

 Aquilia Severa
Aquilia Severa
Iulia Aquilia Severa was the second and fourth wife of Emperor Elagabalus. She was the daughter of Quintus Aquilius, twice consul under Caracalla. The praenomen of Julia was given to her after becoming an empress.Severa was a Vestal Virgin...

, claiming the marriage would produce "god-like children". This was a flagrant breach of Roman law and tradition, which held that any Vestal found to have engaged in sexual intercourse would be buried alive.

A lavish temple called the Elagabalium was built on the east face of the Palatine Hill
Palatine Hill
The Palatine Hill is the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city...

 to house El-Gabal, who was represented by a black conical meteorite
Baetylus
Baetylus is a Semitic word denoting a sacred stone, which was supposedly endowed with life. According to ancient sources, these objects of worship were meteorites, which were dedicated to the gods or revered as symbols of the gods themselves...

 from Emesa. Herodian
Herodian
Herodian or Herodianus of Syria was a minor Roman civil servant who wrote a colourful history in Greek titled History of the Empire from the Death of Marcus in eight books covering the years 180 to 238. His work is not entirely reliable although his relatively unbiased account of Elagabalus is...

 wrote "this stone is worshipped as though it were sent from heaven; on it there are some small projecting pieces and markings that are pointed out, which the people would like to believe are a rough picture of the sun, because this is how they see them". In order to become the high priest of his new religion, Elagabalus had himself circumcised. He forced senators to watch while he danced around the altar of Deus Sol Invictus to the sound of drums and cymbals, and each summer solstice
Solstice
A solstice is an astronomical event that happens twice each year when the Sun's apparent position in the sky, as viewed from Earth, reaches its northernmost or southernmost extremes...

 he held a festival dedicated to the god, which became popular with the masses because of the free food widely distributed there. During this festival, Elagabalus placed the Emesa stone on a chariot
Chariot
The chariot is a type of horse carriage used in both peace and war as the chief vehicle of many ancient peoples. Ox carts, proto-chariots, were built by the Proto-Indo-Europeans and also built in Mesopotamia as early as 3000 BC. The original horse chariot was a fast, light, open, two wheeled...

 adorned with gold and jewels, which he paraded through the city:

A six horse chariot carried the divinity, the horses huge and flawlessly white, with expensive gold fittings and rich ornaments. No one held the reins, and no one rode in the chariot; the vehicle was escorted as if the god himself were the charioteer. Elagabalus ran backward in front of the chariot, facing the god and holding the horses' reins. He made the whole journey in this reverse fashion, looking up into the face of his god.


The most sacred relics from the Roman religion were transferred from their respective shrines to the Elagabalium, including the Great Mother
Cybele
Cybele , was a Phrygian form of the Earth Mother or Great Mother. As with Greek Gaia , her Minoan equivalent Rhea and some aspects of Demeter, Cybele embodies the fertile Earth...

, the fire of Vesta
Vesta (mythology)
Vesta was the virgin goddess of the hearth, home, and family in Roman religion. Vesta's presence was symbolized by the sacred fire that burned at her hearth and temples...

, the Shields
Ancile
The Ancile, in ancient Rome, is the legendary buckler shield of the god Mars, said to have fallen from heaven, upon Numa Pompilius. At the same time, a voice was heard which declared that Rome should be mistress of the world while the shield was preserved. The Ancile was, as it were, the palladium...

 of the Salii
Salii
In ancient Roman religion, the Salii were the "leaping priests" of Mars supposed to have been introduced by King Numa Pompilius. They were twelve patrician youths, dressed as archaic warriors: an embroidered tunic, a breastplate, a short red cloak , a sword, and a spiked headdress called an apex...

 and the Palladium
Palladium (mythology)
In Greek and Roman mythology, a palladium or palladion was an image of great antiquity on which the safety of a city was said to depend. "Palladium" especially signified the wooden statue of Pallas Athena that Odysseus and Diomedes stole from the citadel of Troy and which was later taken to the...

, so that no other god except El-Gabal would be worshipped.

Sex/gender controversy


Elagabalus' sexual orientation
Sexual orientation
Sexual orientation describes a pattern of emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to the opposite sex, the same sex, both, or neither, and the genders that accompany them. By the convention of organized researchers, these attractions are subsumed under heterosexuality, homosexuality,...

 and gender identity
Gender identity
A gender identity is the way in which an individual self-identifies with a gender category, for example, as being either a man or a woman, or in some cases being neither, which can be distinct from biological sex. Basic gender identity is usually formed by age three and is extremely difficult to...

 are the source of much controversy and debate. Elagabalus married and divorced five women, three of whom are known. His first wife was Julia Cornelia Paula
Julia Cornelia Paula
Julia Cornelia Paula or Julia Paula was a distinguished Roman noblewoman who lived in the 3rd century. Paula was a member of the gens Cornelia of ancient Rome. She was a Syrian woman of Roman descent and her family was a distinguished family from Syria. Paula’s father, Julius Cornelius Paulus was a...

; the second was the Vestal Virgin
Vestal Virgin
In ancient Roman religion, the Vestals or Vestal Virgins , were priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the hearth. The College of the Vestals and its well-being was regarded as fundamental to the continuance and security of Rome, as embodied by their cultivation of the sacred fire that could not be...

 Julia Aquilia Severa
Aquilia Severa
Iulia Aquilia Severa was the second and fourth wife of Emperor Elagabalus. She was the daughter of Quintus Aquilius, twice consul under Caracalla. The praenomen of Julia was given to her after becoming an empress.Severa was a Vestal Virgin...

, but within a year, he abandoned her and married Annia Aurelia Faustina
Annia Faustina
Annia Aurelia Faustina was an Anatolian Roman noblewoman. She was an Empress of Rome and third wife of Roman Emperor Elagabalus briefly in 221.-Ancestry & Family:...

, a descendant of Marcus Aurelius and the widow of a man recently executed by Elagabalus. He had returned to Severa by the end of the year, but according to Cassius Dio, his most stable relationship seems to have been with his chariot
Quadriga
A quadriga is a car or chariot drawn by four horses abreast . It was raced in the Ancient Olympic Games and other contests. It is represented in profile as the chariot of gods and heroes on Greek vases and in bas-relief. The quadriga was adopted in ancient Roman chariot racing...

 driver, a blond slave from Caria
Caria
Caria was a region of western Anatolia extending along the coast from mid-Ionia south to Lycia and east to Phrygia. The Ionian and Dorian Greeks colonized the west of it and joined the Carian population in forming Greek-dominated states there...

 named Hierocles
Hierocles (charioteer)
Hierocles was reputedly a favorite and lover of the Roman emperor Elagabalus. He was from Caria and was at some point enslaved and became a charioteer in the service of Elagabalus...

, whom he referred to as his husband. The Augustan History claims that he also married a man named Zoticus, an athlete from Smyrna, in a public ceremony at Rome. Cassius Dio reported Elagabalus would paint his eyes, epilate
Plucking (hair removal)
Plucking or tweezing can mean the process of removing human hair, animal hair or a bird's feathers by mechanically pulling the item from the owner's body.In humans, this is done for personal grooming purposes, usually with tweezers...

 his hair and wear wigs before prostituting
Prostitution
Prostitution is the act or practice of providing sexual services to another person in return for payment. The person who receives payment for sexual services is called a prostitute and the person who receives such services is known by a multitude of terms, including a "john". Prostitution is one of...

 himself in taverns and brothels, and even the imperial palace:

Finally, he set aside a room in the palace and there committed his indecencies, always standing nude at the door of the room, as the harlots do, and shaking the curtain which hung from gold rings, while in a soft and melting voice he solicited the passers-by.


Herodian commented that Elagabalus pampered his natural good looks by wearing too much make-up. He was described as having been "delighted to be called the mistress, the wife, the Queen of Hierocles" and was said to have offered vast sums of money to the physician who could equip him with female genitalia. Subsequently, Elagabalus has often been characterized by modern writers as transgender
Transgender
Transgender is a general term applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies to vary from culturally conventional gender roles....

, most likely transsexual.

Fall from power


By 221 Elagabalus' eccentricities, particularly his relationship with Hierocles, increasingly infuriated the soldiers of the Praetorian Guard
Praetorian Guard
The Praetorian Guard was a force of bodyguards used by Roman Emperors. The title was already used during the Roman Republic for the guards of Roman generals, at least since the rise to prominence of the Scipio family around 275 BC...

. When Julia Maesa perceived that popular support for the emperor was quickly wavering, she decided that he and his mother, who had encouraged his religious practices, had to be replaced. As alternatives, she turned to her other daughter Julia Avita Mamaea
Julia Avita Mamaea
Julia Avita Mamaea was the second daughter of Julia Maesa, a powerful Roman woman of Syrian origin and Syrian noble Julius Avitus. She was a niece of empress Julia Domna and emperor Septimius Severus and sister of Julia Soaemias...

 and her son, the thirteen-year-old Severus Alexander. Convincing Elagabalus to appoint his cousin as his heir, Alexander was bestowed with the title of Caesar and shared the consulship with the emperor that year. However, Elagabalus reconsidered this arrangement when he began to suspect that the Praetorian Guard favored his cousin over himself. Following the failure of various attempts at Alexander's life, Elagabalus stripped his cousin of his titles, revoked his consulship, and circulated the news that Alexander was near death to see how the Praetorians would react. A riot ensued, and the guard demanded to see Elagabalus and Alexander in the Praetorian camp
Castra Praetoria
Castra Praetoria were the ancient barracks of the Praetorian Guard of Imperial Rome.-History:According to the Roman historian Suetonius, the barracks were built in 23 AD by Lucius Aelius Sejanus, the praetorian prefect serving under the emperor Tiberius, in an effort to consolidate the several...

. The emperor complied and on March 11, 222 he presented his cousin, along with his mother Julia Soaemias. Upon arrival the soldiers started cheering Alexander, while ignoring Elagabalus, who ordered the summary arrest and execution of anyone who had taken part in this revolt. In response, the Praetorians attacked Elagabalus and his mother:

So he made an attempt to flee, and would have got away somewhere by being placed in a chest, had he not been discovered and slain, at the age of 18. His mother, who embraced him and clung tightly to him, perished with him; their heads were cut off and their bodies, after being stripped naked, were first dragged all over the city, and then the mother's body was cast aside somewhere or other, while his was thrown into the river.


Following his demise, many associates of Elagabalus were killed or deposed, including Hierocles and Comazon. His religious edicts were reversed and El-Gabal was returned to Emesa. Women were barred from ever attending meetings of the Senate, and damnatio memoriae
Damnatio memoriae
Damnatio memoriae is the Latin phrase literally meaning "condemnation of memory" in the sense of a judgment that a person must not be remembered. It was a form of dishonor that could be passed by the Roman Senate upon traitors or others who brought discredit to the Roman State...

—erasing a person from all public records—was decreed upon him.

Historiography


A propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 campaign against Elagabalus, traditionally attributed to Julia Avitus Mamaea, was instituted after his death. Many denigrating and false stories were circulated about him, and his eccentricities may have been exaggerated. The most famous among these, immortalized in the 19th-century painting The Roses of Heliogabalus
The Roses of Heliogabalus
The Roses of Heliogabalus is a famous painting of 1888 by the Anglo-Dutch academician Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, at present in private hands, and based on a probably invented episode in the life of the Roman emperor Elagabalus, also known as Heliogabalus, , taken from the Augustan History...

, is that he smothered guests at a dinner to death with a mass of "violets and other flowers" dropped from above.

Augustan History


The source of many of these stories of Elagabalus's debauchery is the Augustan History
Augustan History
The Augustan History is a late Roman collection of biographies, in Latin, of the Roman Emperors, their junior colleagues and usurpers of the period 117 to 284...

(Historia Augusta), which scholarly consensus now feels to be unreliable in its details. The Historia Augusta was most likely written near the end of the 4th century during the reign of emperor Theodosius I
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

, drawing as much upon the invention of its author as actual historical sources. The life of Elagabalus as described in the Augustan History is believed to be largely a work of historical fiction. Only the sections 13 to 17, relating to the fall of Elagabalus, are considered to hold any historical value.

Cassius Dio


Sources more credible than the Augustan History include the contemporary historians Cassius Dio and Herodian. Cassius Dio lived from the second half of the 2nd century until sometime after 229. Born into a patrician family, he spent the greater part of his life in public service. He was a senator under emperor Commodus
Commodus
Commodus , was Roman Emperor from 180 to 192. He also ruled as co-emperor with his father Marcus Aurelius from 177 until his father's death in 180. His name changed throughout his reign; see changes of name for earlier and later forms. His accession as emperor was the first time a son had succeeded...

 and governor of Smyrna
Smyrna
Smyrna was an ancient city located at a central and strategic point on the Aegean coast of Anatolia. Thanks to its advantageous port conditions, its ease of defence and its good inland connections, Smyrna rose to prominence. The ancient city is located at two sites within modern İzmir, Turkey...

 after the death of Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus , also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of...

. Afterwards he served as suffect consul around 205, and as proconsul in Africa
Africa Province
The Roman province of Africa was established after the Romans defeated Carthage in the Third Punic War. It roughly comprised the territory of present-day northern Tunisia, and the small Mediterranean coast of modern-day western Libya along the Syrtis Minor...

 and Pannonia
Pannonia
Pannonia was an ancient province of the Roman Empire bounded north and east by the Danube, coterminous westward with Noricum and upper Italy, and southward with Dalmatia and upper Moesia....

. Alexander Severus held him in the highest esteem and made him his consul again. His Roman History spans nearly a millennium
Millennium
A millennium is a period of time equal to one thousand years —from the Latin phrase , thousand, and , year—often but not necessarily related numerically to a particular dating system....

, from the arrival of Aeneas
Aeneas
Aeneas , in Greco-Roman mythology, was a Trojan hero, the son of the prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite. His father was the second cousin of King Priam of Troy, making Aeneas Priam's second cousin, once removed. The journey of Aeneas from Troy , which led to the founding a hamlet south of...

 in Italy until the year 229. As a contemporary of Elagabalus, Cassius Dio's account of his reign is generally considered more reliable than the Augustan History, although it should be noted that Dio spent the larger part of this period outside of Rome and had to rely on second-hand accounts when composing his Roman History. Furthermore, the political climate in the aftermath of Elagabalus' reign, as well as his own position within the government of Alexander likely imposed restrictions on the extent to which his writing on this period is truthful.

Herodian


Another contemporary of Elagabalus was Herodian
Herodian
Herodian or Herodianus of Syria was a minor Roman civil servant who wrote a colourful history in Greek titled History of the Empire from the Death of Marcus in eight books covering the years 180 to 238. His work is not entirely reliable although his relatively unbiased account of Elagabalus is...

, who was a minor Roman civil servant who lived from c. 170 until 240. His work, History of the Roman Empire since Marcus Aurelius, commonly abbreviated as Roman History, is an eye-witness account of the reign of Commodus
Commodus
Commodus , was Roman Emperor from 180 to 192. He also ruled as co-emperor with his father Marcus Aurelius from 177 until his father's death in 180. His name changed throughout his reign; see changes of name for earlier and later forms. His accession as emperor was the first time a son had succeeded...

 until the beginning of the reign of Gordian III
Gordian III
Gordian III , was Roman Emperor from 238 to 244. Gordian was the son of Antonia Gordiana and an unnamed Roman Senator who died before 238. Antonia Gordiana was the daughter of Emperor Gordian I and younger sister of Emperor Gordian II. Very little is known on his early life before his acclamation...

. His work largely overlaps with Dio's own Roman History, but both texts seem to be independently consistent with each other. Although Herodian is not deemed as reliable as Cassius Dio, his lack of literary and scholarly pretensions make him less biased than senatorial historians. Herodian is considered the most important source on the religious reforms which took place during the reign of Elagabalus, which have been confirmed by modern numismatical
Numismatics
Numismatics is the study or collection of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money, and related objects. While numismatists are often characterized as students or collectors of coins, the discipline also includes the broader study of money and other payment media used to resolve debts and the...

 and archaeological
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

 evidence.

Edward Gibbon


Gibbon (1737–94) wrote:

Elagabalus in later art



Due to these stories, Elagabalus became something of a hero to the Decadent movement
Decadent movement
The Decadent movement was a late 19th century artistic and literary movement of Western Europe. It flourished in France, but also had devotees in England and throughout Europe, as well as in the United States.-Overview:...

 in the late 19th century. He appears in many paintings and poems as the epitome of an amoral aesthete. His life and character has inspired or at least informed many famous artworks, including the following:

Literature

  • "Irydion" (1836), a play by Zygmunt Krasiński
    Zygmunt Krasinski
    Count Napoleon Stanisław Adam Ludwig Zygmunt Krasiński , a Polish count, is traditionally ranked with Mickiewicz and Słowacki as one of Poland's Three National Bards — the trio of great Romantic poets who influenced national consciousness during the period of Poland's political bondage.-Life and...

    .
  • "William Wilson
    William Wilson (short story)
    "William Wilson" is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in 1839, with a setting inspired by Poe's formative years outside of London. The tale follows the theme of the doppelgänger and is written in a style based on rationality...

    " (1839) by Edgar Allan Poe
    Edgar Allan Poe
    Edgar Allan Poe was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective...

     opens with an allusion to the wickedness of Elagabalus.
  • L'Agonie (Agony) (1889), a novel by the French writer Jean Lombard
    Jean Lombard
    Jean Lombard was a French novelist of the late nineteenth century. His work, with its themes of orientalism, androgyny and paganism, had deep affiliations with the Decadent movement in literature. Although almost completely forgotten today, he influenced contemporaries such as Rachilde and Jean...

  • The Sun God (1904), a novel by the English writer Arthur Westcott
  • De Berg van Licht (The Mountain of Light) (1905), a novel by the Dutch writer Louis Couperus
    Louis Couperus
    Louis Marie-Anne Couperus was a Dutch novelist and poet during the Belle Époque. There is a wide variety of genres in his oeuvre, which contains poetry, fairy tales, psychological novels, and historical novels...

  • Algabal (1892–1919), a collection of poems by the German
    German language
    German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

     poet Stefan George
    Stefan George
    Stefan Anton George was a German poet, editor, and translator.-Biography:George was born in Bingen in Germany in 1868. He spent time in Paris, where he was among the writers and artists who attended the Tuesday soireés held by the poet Stéphane Mallarmé. He began to publish poetry in the 1890s,...

  • The Amazing Emperor Heliogabalus (1911), a biography
    Biography
    A biography is a detailed description or account of someone's life. More than a list of basic facts , biography also portrays the subject's experience of those events...

     by the Oxford don John Stuart Hay
  • St. Dorothy, a poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne
    Algernon Charles Swinburne
    Algernon Charles Swinburne was an English poet, playwright, novelist, and critic. He invented the roundel form, wrote several novels, and contributed to the famous Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica...

    , which refers to the saint's martyrdom under the emperor Gabalus
  • Héliogabale ou l'Anarchiste couronné (Heliogabalus, or the Crowned Anarchist) (1934), an essay by the French surrealist
    Surrealism
    Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members....

     Antonin Artaud
    Antonin Artaud
    Antoine Marie Joseph Artaud, more well-known as Antonin Artaud was a French playwright, poet, actor and theatre director...

  • The Lottery in Babylon
    The Lottery in Babylon
    "The Lottery in Babylon" is a fantasy short story by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges...

     (1941), a short story by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, references a biography, "Life of Antoninus Heliogabalus."
  • Confessions of a Mask
    Confessions of a Mask
    is Japanese author Yukio Mishima's first novel. Published in 1948, it launched him to national fame though he was only in his early twenties.The main protagonist is referred to in the story as Kochan. Being raised during Japan’s era of right-wing militarism and Imperialism, he struggles from a very...

     (1958), a novel by Japanese writer Yukio Mishima. In one scene, the narrator compares his own motivations for cross-dressing as a youth with those of "Heliogabalus, emperor of Rome in its period of decay, that destroyer of ancient gods, that decadent, bestial monarch."
  • Family Favourites (1960), a novel by the Anglo-Argentine writer Alfred Duggan
    Alfred Duggan
    Alfred Duggan was an English historian, archeologist and best-selling historical novelist during the 1950s. Although he was raised in England, Duggan was born Alfred Leo Duggan in Buenos Aires, Argentina to a family of wealthy landowners of Irish descent. His family moved to England when he was...

  • Child of the Sun (1966), a novel by Lance Horner and Kyle Onstott
    Kyle Onstott
    Kyle Onstott was an American novelist, best-remembered for his best-selling novel Mandingo , which deals with slavery on an Alabama plantation in the 1830s.- References :Contemporary Authors: Biography - Onstott, Kyle...

    , who were more famous for writing the novel behind the movie Mandingo
    Mandingo (film)
    Mandingo is a 1975 film, based on the novel Mandingo by Kyle Onstott and upon the play based thereon by Jack Kirkland. The film was directed by Richard Fleischer and featured James Mason, Susan George, Perry King, Lillian Hayman, boxer-turned-actor Ken Norton, and bodybuilder and pro...

    .
  • Super-Eliogabalo (1969), a novel by the Italian writer Alberto Arbasino
    Alberto Arbasino
    Alberto Arbasino is an Italian writer and essayist.-Biography:Arbasino was born at Voghera, southern Lombardy. He studied at the University of Milan where he graduated in law. Later he worked as journalist for magazines such as Il Mondo and the newspaper La Repubblica...

  • Breakfast of Champions
    Breakfast of Champions
    Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday is a 1973 novel by the American author Kurt Vonnegut. Set in the fictional town of Midland City, it is the story of "two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast." One of these men, Dwayne Hoover, is a normal-looking but...

    (1973), a novel by Kurt Vonnegut
    Kurt Vonnegut
    Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was a 20th century American writer. His works such as Cat's Cradle , Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions blend satire, gallows humor and science fiction. He was known for his humanist beliefs and was honorary president of the American Humanist Association.-Early...

     that mistakenly refers to Phalaris
    Phalaris
    Phalaris was the tyrant of Acragas in Sicily, from approximately 570 to 554 BC.-History:He was entrusted with the building of the temple of Zeus Atabyrius in the citadel, and took advantage of his position to make himself despot. Under his rule Agrigentum seems to have attained considerable...

    , a Sicilian tyrant, as Heliogabalus
  • Boy Caesar (2004), a novel by the English writer Jeremy Reed
    Jeremy Reed (writer)
    Jeremy Reed is a Jersey-born writer, poet and prose stylist. Reed has published 50 major works in 25 years. He has written more than two dozen books of poetry, 12 novels, and volumes of literary and music criticism. He has also published translations of Montale, Cocteau, Nasrallah, Adonis, Bogary...

  • Being an Account of the Life and Death of the Emperor Heliogabolus, a 24-hour comic by Neil Gaiman
    Neil Gaiman
    Neil Richard Gaiman born 10 November 1960)is an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre and films. His notable works include the comic book series The Sandman and novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book...

  • Roman Dusk (2008), a novel in the vampire
    Vampire
    Vampires are mythological or folkloric beings who subsist by feeding on the life essence of living creatures, regardless of whether they are undead or a living person...

     Count Saint-Germain series by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
    Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
    -Biography:She was born in Berkeley, California. She attended Berkeley schools through high school followed by three years at San Francisco State College .In November 1969 she married Donald Simpson and divorced in February 1982...

    . In the novel, Heliogabalus has just become Caesar and is depicted on several occasions as the Decadence
    Decadence
    Decadence can refer to a personal trait, or to the state of a society . Used to describe a person's lifestyle. Concise Oxford Dictionary: "a luxurious self-indulgence"...

     ensues.
  • Anna Gavalda
    Anna Gavalda
    Anna Gavalda is a French teacher and award-winning novelist.Referred to by Voici magazine as “a distant descendant of Dorothy Parker”, Anna Gavalda was born in an upper-class suburb of Paris...

    (2010), Site l'histoire d'Heliogabalus et ses orgies page 591 du roman "la consolante".

Paintings

  • The Roses of Heliogabalus
    The Roses of Heliogabalus
    The Roses of Heliogabalus is a famous painting of 1888 by the Anglo-Dutch academician Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, at present in private hands, and based on a probably invented episode in the life of the Roman emperor Elagabalus, also known as Heliogabalus, , taken from the Augustan History...

    (1888), by the Anglo-Dutch academician Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
    Lawrence Alma-Tadema
    Lawrence Alma-Tadema, OM, RA was a Dutch painter.Born in Dronrijp, the Netherlands, and trained at the Royal Academy of Antwerp, Belgium, he settled in England in 1870 and spent the rest of his life there...

  • Heliogabalus, High Priest of the Sun (1866), by the English decadent Simeon Solomon
    Simeon Solomon
    Simeon Solomon was an English Pre-Raphaelite painter-Biography:...

    , once a close friend of Algernon Charles Swinburne
    Algernon Charles Swinburne
    Algernon Charles Swinburne was an English poet, playwright, novelist, and critic. He invented the roundel form, wrote several novels, and contributed to the famous Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica...


Comics

  • Vassalord
    Vassalord
    is a shōjo manga series written and illustrated by Nanae Chrono. It is currently serialized in Comic Blade Avarus, since March 30, 2006. It is licensed for an English language release in North America by Tokyopop. The manga series was adapted into a series of four drama CDs.-Plot:Vampires Charles...

    (2006–), Nanae Chrono
    Nanae Chrono
    is a female Japanese manga artist. She is best known as the creator of the manga series Peacemaker Kurogane, Senki Senki Momotama, and Vassalord .-Serials:*; *; *; *; *; -Artbooks:*;*;...

    's Manga, where the flamboyant main character, Johnny Rayflo (an ancient vampire), is referred to occasionally as "The Confined Elagabalus."
  • Being an Account of the Life and Death of the Emperor Heliogabolus (1991), by Neil Gaiman
    Neil Gaiman
    Neil Richard Gaiman born 10 November 1960)is an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre and films. His notable works include the comic book series The Sandman and novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book...

    . Published in Cerebus #147 (1991).
  • Helioglobolus – biography in the Swedish anthology Galago, by Simon Gärdenfors
    Simon Gärdenfors
    Simon Gärdenfors is a Swedish cartoonist, rapper, television presenter, and radio host.His comics are drawn in a round icon-like cartoony style, although their content is often realistic or autobiographical...

    .
  • Lychee Hikari Club (2005) by Furuya Usamaru - The main protagonist, Zera, is based on the Roman Emperor Elagabulus.

Music

  • Eliogabalo
    Eliogabalo
    Eliogabalo is an opera by the Italian composer Francesco Cavalli based on the life of the Roman emperor Heliogabalus. The author of the original libretto is unknown but it was probably reworked by Aurelio Aureli...

    , an opera by Venetian Baroque composer Francesco Cavalli
    Francesco Cavalli
    Francesco Cavalli was an Italian composer of the early Baroque period. His real name was Pietro Francesco Caletti-Bruni, but he is better known by that of Cavalli, the name of his patron Federico Cavalli, a Venetian nobleman.-Life:Cavalli was born at Crema, Lombardy...

     (1667)
  • Heliogabale, an opera by French composer Déodat de Séverac
    Déodat de Séverac
    Déodat de Séverac was a French composer.-Biography:...

     which premiered in 1910
  • Heliogabalus Imperator (Emperor Heliogabalus), an orchestral work by the German composer Hans Werner Henze
    Hans Werner Henze
    Hans Werner Henze is a German composer of prodigious output best known for "his consistent cultivation of music for the theatre throughout his life"...

     (1972)
  • Eliogabalus
    Eliogabalus
    Eliogabalus is the second official album by the Italian/Slovenian rock band Devil Doll, released on May 1, 1990 on Hurdy Gurdy Records.A concept by Mr. Doctor, the title of the album is a reference to the Roman Emperor Elagabalus.-Background:...

    , an album by rock band Devil Doll
    Devil Doll (band)
    Devil Doll is an Italian-Slovenian experimental rock band formed in 1987 by the mysterious "Mr. Doctor". The band has gained a cult following, taking influences from gothic rock, classical and slavonic folk music, and fronted by the sprechgesang of Mr. Doctor himself. Devil Doll albums were all...

     (1990)
  • Six Litanies for Heliogabalus
    Six Litanies for Heliogabalus
    Six Litanies for Heliogabalus is an album by John Zorn. It is the third album to feature the "Moonchild Trio" of Mike Patton, Joey Baron and Trevor Dunn, following Moonchild: Songs Without Words and Astronome and the first to feature additional performers...

    , by the composer and saxophonist John Zorn
    John Zorn
    John Zorn is an American avant-garde composer, arranger, record producer, saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist. Zorn is a prolific artist: he has hundreds of album credits as performer, composer, or producer...

     (2007)
  • Elagabalus (as Heliogabalus) is mentioned in the "Major-General's Song
    Major-General's Song
    I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General is a patter song from Gilbert and Sullivan's 1879 comic opera The Pirates of Penzance. It is perhaps the most famous song in Gilbert and Sullivan's operas. It is sung by Major-General Stanley at his first entrance, towards the end of Act I...

    " from the Gilbert and Sullivan
    Gilbert and Sullivan
    Gilbert and Sullivan refers to the Victorian-era theatrical partnership of the librettist W. S. Gilbert and the composer Arthur Sullivan . The two men collaborated on fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896, of which H.M.S...

     opera
    Savoy opera
    The Savoy Operas denote a style of comic opera that developed in Victorian England in the late 19th century, with W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan as the original and most successful practitioners. The name is derived from the Savoy Theatre, which impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte built to house...

     The Pirates of Penzance
    The Pirates of Penzance
    The Pirates of Penzance; or, The Slave of Duty is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. The opera's official premiere was at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York City on 31 December 1879, where the show was well received by both audiences...

    : "I quote in elegiac
    Elegiac
    Elegiac refers either to those compositions that are like elegies or to a specific poetic meter used in Classical elegies. The Classical elegiac meter has two lines, making it a couplet: a line of dactylic hexameter, followed by a line of dactylic pentameter...

    s all the crimes of Heliogabalus."
  • Heliogabale, a french rock band, a French rock band which has released five albums since 1995, among them "the full mind is alone the clear" recorded by Steve Albini
    Steve Albini
    Steven Frank Albini is an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, audio engineer and music journalist. He was a member of Big Black, Rapeman, and Flour, and is currently a member of Shellac...

     in 1997
  • Heliogabalus, a song by Momus
    Momus (artist)
    Nick Currie , more popularly known under the artist name Momus , is a songwriter, blogger and former journalist for Wired...

     from his 2001 album Folktronic, in which the narrator defends Heliogabalus, saying he "wasn't to blame" for the "deaths he caused"
  • Heliogabalus, an album by Switzerland sludge metal
    Sludge metal
    Sludge metal is a subgenre of heavy metal that melds elements of doom metal and hardcore punk, and sometimes incorporates influences from southern rock, stoner rock and grunge. Sludge metal is typically abrasive; often featuring shouted vocals, heavily distorted instruments and sharply contrasting...

     band Rorcal, released in 2010.
  • The Roman Emperors Song (parody of Michael Jackson
    Michael Jackson
    Michael Joseph Jackson was an American recording artist, entertainer, and businessman. Referred to as the King of Pop, or by his initials MJ, Jackson is recognized as the most successful entertainer of all time by Guinness World Records...

    's "Bad" on series 3 of the popular TV sketch show Horrible Histories
    Horrible Histories
    Horrible Histories is a series of illustrated history books published in the United Kingdom by Scholastic. They are designed to engage children in history by concentrating on the unusual, gory, or unpleasant. The series has proved exceptionally successful in commercial terms...


Film

  • Héliogabale, a 1909 silent film
    Silent film
    A silent film is a film with no synchronized recorded sound, especially with no spoken dialogue. In silent films for entertainment the dialogue is transmitted through muted gestures, pantomime and title cards...

     by the French director André Calmettes
  • Héliogabale, ou L'orgie romaine, a 1911 silent short by the French director Louis Feuillade
    Louis Feuillade
    Louis Feuillade was a prolific and prominent French film director from the silent era. Between 1906 and 1924 he directed over 630 films...


Television

  • Elagabalus appeared in various episodes of the popular sketch show Horrible Histories
    Horrible Histories
    Horrible Histories is a series of illustrated history books published in the United Kingdom by Scholastic. They are designed to engage children in history by concentrating on the unusual, gory, or unpleasant. The series has proved exceptionally successful in commercial terms...

    , played by Mathew Baynton

Plays

  • Mencken, H.L. and Nathan, George Jean. Heliogabalus A Buffoonery in Three Acts. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1920.
  • Elagabalus, Emperor of Rome (2008), a play by the American dramatist Shawn Ferreyra, which premiered in San Francisco
    San Francisco, California
    San Francisco , officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the financial, cultural, and transportation center of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region of 7.15 million people which includes San Jose and Oakland...

    , California
    California
    California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

    , January 18 through February 2, 2008
  • Escobar, C.H. de. "Heliogabalo: O SOL E A PÁTRIA". Ed. Devir. Rio de Janeiro. 1989.
  • Gilbert, S.
    Sky Gilbert
    Schuyler Lee Gilbert, Jr. is a Canadian writer, actor, academic and drag performer. Born in Norwich, Connecticut, he studied theatre in Toronto, Ontario at York University and the University of Toronto, before becoming co-founder and artistic director of Buddies in Bad Times, a Toronto theatre...

     Heliogabalus: A Love Story. Toronto, Cabaret Theatre Company, 2002.

Primary sources




Secondary material


  • Martin Frey. Untersuchungen zur Religion und der Religionspolitik des Kaisers Elagabalus. Stuttgart, 1989.
  • R. Krumeich, "Der Kaiser als syrischer Priester: Zur Repräsentation Elagabals als sacerdos dei Solis Elagabali," Boreas, 23-24, 2000-2001, 107-112.

  • Martijn Icks, "Heliogabalus, a Monster on the Roman Throne: The Literary Construction of a 'Bad' Emperor," in Ineke Sluiter and Ralph M. Rosen (eds), Kakos: Badness and Anti-value in Classical Antiquity (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2008) (Mnemosyne: Supplements. History and Archaeology of Classical Antiquity, 307),

Images