What would you do if suddenly you found yourself to be emperor of one of the most powerful empires in history? And what would you say if I told you you were only 14? Sounds a bit crazy right? Well, not so much for an Roman emperor named Elagabalus in the year 218. This is a fact or fictional story of a teen who would go down in history as one of the worst emperors.So grab a cup of coffee and have a seat. This is going to be a long one.
Ok really quick let me explain why this is on the good old blog and not the YouTube channel. As I stated in this post here I have trouble getting any time for me whatsoever! I mean really. It is hard. My kids and spouse constantly interrupted me when I tried to,film a get ready with me and history. So, I have decided that until we have a house where I have room I can escape to to film this shit I will have to keep it solely to a written format. So yeah.
Ok, so Elagabalus, born as Varius Avitus Bassianus. Formally known as Antonius..later. Anyways, he was born in or around 203 to 204 in Syria. His parents were Sextus Varius Marcellus and Julia Soaemias. His father was an equastrian who eventually became a senator. His mother was a cousin of the Emperor, Caracalla. He also had a brother but not much was said about him. Only inkling that he had a brother was a small inscription on his father Sextus tombstone. His grandmother Julia Maesa was also with the family , and she would become instrumental in his rise to emperor. His family was pretty stinking wealthy and had a hereditary priesthood of the sun god Baal or Elagabal as it was known to be called in that part of The Roman Empire at Emesa. And Elagabalus would become high priest of Elagabal at Emesa.
Elagabalus and his/her family was forced into exile by Macrinus. Why? Well, Caracalla was assasinated in 217. And to keep his own emperor status he had them exiled because the family posed a threat to his claims to emperor of the Roman Empire. Even more so over a little lie from maesa.
Now, upon arrival to the whole exile thing, Granny Maesa began her plot to overthrow Macrinus and put her now 14 year old grandson Elagabalus on the thrown. The question is how? How would she do this? It was pretty certain that there were still many around that were loyal to Caracalla and what better way to get their support than to tell them a bit of a fib about her grandson. The fib, you know the lie? That he was the illegitimate son of Caracalla. Yep. And his own mother who was a cousin of the now dead emperor, went along with it.
Yep. She did and it worked. How? The boy had a striking resemblance to to late emperor. People were like “well , damn, he does look like the emperor. A bit too much. So yeah, I guess he is the emperor’s son. “ Plus the bribery helped. Remember the family was very wealthy. With this they were able to get the support of the third legion of Gallica.
At sunrise May 16 218 Elagabalus, now called Marcus Aurelius Antonius, was declared emperor. The name was that of Caracalla and he chose it to cement the claims of being Caracalla’s son. Legal stuff you know.
Becoming emperor was not going to be a cake walk.There were quite a few battles to be fought and opposition. Like that of the praetorian prefect Ulpius Julianus.but that battle ended with him being defeated by his own soldiers. Macrinus went to the senate and wanted approval for war again Elagabalus and his family. From there Macrinus named his son Diadumenian co-emperor and then Tried to get more support for his war. The second legion was in his sights and he paid them off.
So, he gets their support and to celebrate that he throws a party. Macrinus does, he is throwing the party. You know everyone is probably drinking and eating and the other stuff that Romans do. And while they are feasting, a messenger arrives with a gift from Elagabalus. What was the gift? Why the head of prefect Julianus! Great gift. Wonder if anyone fainted or if everyone kept eating. Mood killer for sure. This would be me
Eventually, Macrinus would retreat to Antioch. And there he would be defeated by Elagabalus and his troops led by his tutor who was also his general. Yep. June 8, 218.
Macrinus was executed in Cappadocia his son in Zuegma.
So, then in pure Elagabalus fashion he wrote to the senate and assumed all the titles owed to him. He did not wait for approval. He just went for it. The senate also went ahead and deified him and his mother. Of course he didn’t get to Rome right away, he has to take care of some other housekeeping first. But he did send a portrait of himself to be hung in the senate house on Victoria, yikes, and this was possibly done to show the people what he looked like and not be shocked by his appearance. He was known to dress really exemplary. Finest silks and such. Also, he would be left offerings as well as Victoria . So basically worshipped. As you can imagine this did not sit well with some.
Now that we have Elagabalus background,or what we know about it. It is time to get into the weird shit,it is important to know that just because some things have been passed down through history it doesn’t make it all true. As with Nero and Caligula, many things were written by the victors in the story and they write the history. So some things may not actually be true, and people may be shit now but they used to be a lot worse. Also, history is gross and nasty sometimes. And some things like someone questioning their own gender is not weird today by our standards but back then yes. My personal belief is if you are a man and feel like you actually identify yourself as a women then awesome! Good for you and anyone who doesn’t feel that way in your life, well they are not your people. Get it? Sometimes we have to choose our family.
Why am I getting into this? Well history has it that Elagabalus was one of the first people to try and get sex reassignment surgery. Offering large sums of money to anyone who would be able to give her a vagina. And breasts like that of a woman. Until then it was said she would wear fakes. So, yeah. From here on out I will refer to Elagabalus as a SHE, it was said she like to be called a lady.
She did get married to women. About 5 times that is. 3 of which we had names for. Her first wife was Julia Cornelia , she was picked I guess to make the aristocracy happy. Then she divorced her, to marry the most scandalous women. Not because of upbringing or anything but because the secondwife was a Vestal Virgin! This was a huge no no in Ancient Rome. Vesta was sacred.And Elagabalus was known to pretty much poo poo to the Roman pantheon. This just made it worse. By the way the punishment for both the oath breaker and the one they are getting with was death. Death by being buried alive. Ok, they were technically buried as it was forbidden to do so on Roman grounds. So they were put in a room under ground with a few days worth of food and drink and then they would be killed that way. On other occasions they were beaten to death.but mostly buried alive. However this crap didn’t stop the chicly poo from marrying the emperor. But the emperor divorced this Aquila Serva for a Annia Aurelia who would be divorced from so she could go back to Aquila. And why the vestal virgin in the first place? Well…she wanted godlike children and through her I guess Elagabalus thought it was achievable.
Elagabalus pushed the worship of Baal or Elagabal. The emperor had a large temple built for the deity and would have ceremonies where the emperor would dance around and such. Probably to the bewildering senators. And while there were some that hated this, many loved the new stuff as on Summer so,give they would get free food and drink. And who doesn’t love that?
Ok so, back to Elagabalus married life.. because that is some entertainment there. According to Cassius Dio, who referred to Elagabalus with female pronouns, another husband of this woman was Hierocles. He was an ex-enslaved person and now chariot driver. He became Elagabalus husband, and according to Augustan History she married a man named Zoticus, who was an athlete. But according to Dio he was just a concubine.Dio also stated that on many occasions Elagabalus would prostitute herself in taverns and brothels. Was the kid bored? It was also rumored that she would have many many affairs and loved being caught and punished by her hubby Hierocles. Whatever floats your boat my girl.
The emperor reportedly loved dressing as a woman and wore wigs and makeup. Again not weird today but back then was frowned upon.
Now Elagabalus, may have also thrown some horrendous parties. Horrendous for those attending not for her. She would have those of lower social ranking sit on cushions filled with air. The air would be let out during dinner and the poor person would have to sit through an embarrassing fart noise and fall under the table. Whoopie cushion?
The emperor also loved flowers and had them raining down on guests. This was done in such excess that several party goers died from suffocating. There were also examples of the emperor giving people food that was actually rocks. The higher social standing with Elagabalus the more real food you had. Other times Elagabalus would let the pet lions and leopards put and scare the hell out of her guests.
For a hilarious depiction of the dinner watch this horrible histories reenactment of what happened .
Now it was also said with his excess there was an instance where she was being pulled in a chariot by all naked women. Also she was rumored to appoint people to advisor positions based on the sizes of their genitalia. Which you know was such a smart thing to do,right?
Elagabalus also had a lottery system and unfortunately would throw snakes at the public. These are just a few of the things leading to her demise.
Remember granny? Well she is still kicking and realized that her grandson/granddaughter and her mother needed to be replaced due to religious issues and also eccentric behavior . Plus No heirs. So she convinced her to adopt her mild mannered cousins Alexander. Which she did.and then in 221 or so she was feeling threaded by him so tried to have him killed and this was the same time she remarried Aquila. Need to try for those god babies you know. She was feeling threatened because the praetorian guard was liking Alex more!Can’t have that now can we?
It was the asassination attempts that would prompt the guard to request that Elagabalus and Alex meet at their camp. Which they did. The people cheered Alex on which Only made Elagabalus mad and ordered punishment on those cheering. Which this just caused the revolt.And on March 11,222 he was killed along with his beloved mother. Their heads cut off and bodies naked they were tossed into the Tiber. Their associates were also executed. The act of damnatio memoriae which is erasing someone of note from public record. But that of course didn’t work. Her story lived on and while some may not be true some is.
What do you think? Wish I could have done this in the original format, YouTube. But I guess this works. Elagabalus was a bit crazy in ways but also did some good, he or she allowed women into the senate. Which was a huge step for women of that era. It didn’t last though.