Top 10 facts about Elagabalus

Varius Avitus Bassianus, famously known as Elagabalus, belonged to the Severan Dynasty. He was born in 204 AD and ruled the Roman Empire at the early age of 14.

He gained knowledge about ruling the Empire after becoming an Emperor himself. He was more inclined towards the bad influence and harmed the Romans.

The negative deeds, cruelty, and inhuman acts made him one of the worst Roman Emperors. The act of Elagabalus inviting people to bathe in the tub placed in a public place and make others watch has to be the cruelest deed of all.

However, there are numerous other cruel and interesting facts related to Emperor Elagabalus. Here is the list of the top 10 interesting facts about the Emperor with details.

10. Elagabalus wasn’t born to the emperor’s family but a priest

Elagabalus family tree
Elagabalus family tree

Elagabalus was born to Sextus Varius Marcellus and Julia Soaemias Bassiana at Emesa in Syria, Rome. Sextus was a former senator under Emperor Caracalla, and Julia was a niece of Septimius Severus’s second wife, Julia Domna.

Elagabalus’s family had adopted the hereditary rights to the priesthood of the sun god Elagabal. Elagabalus was the high priest of the sun god Elagabal at Emesa in Roman Syria.

Varius Avitus Bassianus became Elagabalus by adopting the name of the god Elagabal. The word “Elagabalus” symbolizes a Latinized version of the Arabic Ilāh ha-Gaba meaning “the god of the mountain.”

Elagabalus imported the god Elagabal to Rome and assimilated with the sun god “Sol Indiges.”

9. Elagabalus was the youngest Roman emperor ever

Elagabalus, the youngest Roman Emperor
Elagabalus, the youngest Roman Emperor

Elagabalus succeeded Macrinus at the early age of 14. Macrinus had executed the assassination of Emperor Caracalla to gain the throne. However, he could last for a long period as an Emperor.

Macrinus, in fear of losing his throne, had banished Julia Maesa, her two daughters, and her eldest grandson Elagabalus. But, Julia returned to Syria and plotted to overthrow Macrinus.

She took the help of Elagabalus’s tutor and adviser, Grannys, and began spreading rumors. She acclaimed that Elagabalus was the illegitimate son of Emperor Caracalla, and he was supposed to take the throne after Caracalla.

On the 16th of May, 218 AD Elagabalus was taken into the camp of Third Legion. During his stay at the camp, he learned skills and was eventually announced as the Emperor by the Roman commander Comazon.

On June 8, 218 A.D., the recently made Roman commander, Gannys, defeated Macrinus and his forces. Macrinus failed to cross the Bosporus at Cappadocia and escape Rome.

However, he was killed along with his nine-year son, Diadumenianus. And in no time, Macrinus was also killed.

Elagabalus was then proclaimed as the Emperor of the Roman Empire by the Senator. He was only fourteen years old but was guided by Julia and commander Comazon to rule the Empire in his initial days.

8. Elagabalus married three women and a man

Julia Cornelia Paula - Elagabalus first wife
Julia Cornelia Paula – Elagabalus first wife

Elagabalus, the youngest roman emperor’s marital status, was unstable like many other Roman Emperors. He was married four times, three times with a woman and once with a man.

He married his first wife, Julia Cornelia Paula, on the 29th of August, 219 AD. He stayed in a marital relationship with her for one year and divorced her on the 28th of August, 220 AD.

Julia Aquilia Severa, originally named Vestal Virgin, was his second wife. She was forced to marry him after he had raped her to produce godlike children from her.

Annia Aurelia Faustina, a descendent of Marcus Aurelius, was Elagabalus’ third wife. He had executed Annia’s husband, Pomponius Bassus, to marry her.

However, in Elagabalus’ reign last year, he divorced Annia Faustina and remarried Aquilia Severa. He had no children despite marrying three women.

Elagabalus’ sexual orientation confusing as he was inclined towards both men and women. He married Hierocles, an ex-slave and chariot driver from Caria, after divorcing Aquilia for the second time.

7. Elagabalus dressed like a woman where he sold himself as a prostitute

Elagabalus dressed as a woman
Elagabalus dressed as a woman

Elagabalus was married to three women at an early age. He, however, could not stay for a long period with any of them. His sexual inclination was confusing for him and for the Romans to understand.

Although he married his three wives to give birth to a godlike child or children, he did not have any children from any of the wives. He was interested in the company of a man rather than a woman.

He would love when he was called the mistress, wife, or queen of Hierocles, his fourth partner. He would dress up as a woman and put on makeup like every other woman.

He would paint his eyes, rouge his cheeks, and put on a wig to look like a woman. He wished to have a female organ by removing the male organ, and for that, he was in search of a physician.

Elagabalus visited brothels frequently, drove out to the prostitutes, and sold himself like a prostitute.

He had a separate room for himself to commit his indecencies inside his palace. He would stand nude at the door of the room to be seen by all. He also created a public Roman bath to collect men for him.

6. Elagabalus enforced worship of his favorite god

Elagabalus Temple -- Palatine Hill
Elagabalus Temple — Palatine Hill

Elagabalus as an emperor, tried to install the Syrian cult in Rome. He built a temple on Rome’s Palatine Hill for his god.

He placed Elagabal’s black relic in a chariot decorated with gold and precious stones. The Romans were forced to worship, Elagabal as he was the favorite god Elagabalus.

He also worked on changing the traditional Roman religion. Jupiter, the King of God, was also being replaced by his favorite god Elagabal.

The cruelty he showed to his citizens was harsh, but they had to follow it. Anyone going against his will would be punished, exiled, or executed.

5. The transgender practice was tolerated in Elagabalus’ reign

A portrait of the Roman Emperor, Elagabalus parading
A portrait of the Roman Emperor, Elagabalus parading

Transgender behavior existed in Ancient Rome, and it was normal for everyone. The most celebrated transgender person was the male-born priestesses of Cybele, known as the Gallae.

People with strong cross-gender identification celebrated a castration ceremony. There, men would lose their genitalia, bleed like in menstruation or childbirth.

Those who had emotions of the opposite gender could seek out the local Gallae temple to Cybele. They also would have them castrated to please her goddess.

A radical transgender and religious experiment became stronger since Elagabalus’ reign.

4. Elagabalus had created the Women’s Senate

A parade for Elagabalus
A parade for Elagabalus

Elagabalus received a great contribution from his family, especially from female members. His mother, Julia Soaemis, and his grandmother, Julia Maesa, were strong supporters.

They helped Elagabalus from the beginning, and especially his grandmother had a huge role in his life. It was because of her strategy that he was able to become an Emperor.

He was unaware of his state activities in his initial days. His mothers and grandmothers helped Elagabalus through administrative affairs and took control of every decision.

Elagabalus had granted his mother and grandmother the title of Augusta and to attend sessions of the Senate. Their influential role could be seen on many coins and inscriptions, a rare honor for Roman women.

Women weren’t allowed to enter the Senate, but it started after Elagabalus let his mother and grandmother guide him through his reign.

3. Elagabalus was rumored to sacrifice children to his god

Elagabalus unique portrait
Elagabalus unique portrait

Killing humans was nothing but a game for Ancient Roman emperors. When it came to the sacrifice based on religion, assassination became simply easy. It didn’t matter what age the victims were.

As a priest, Elagabalus would sacrifice children in honor of his god. He collected the children of noble birth and beautiful appearance from Italy.

He performed his rites and magical chants on these children and killed them to thank his god. He would examine the children’s vitals and harm them physically.

The attire for the ritual performed was costly. It was a silk material with golden embroideries. He had this special cloth designed for him as he thought the normal Roman clothes were made of cheap material.

2. Elagabalus pranked people by siccing animals on them

Elagabalus
Elagabalus

Elagabalus supposedly invented the “Whoopee cushion” during his reign. With this cuisine, Elagabalus invited people to have dinner with him.

When they would come, Elagabalus started making practical jokes on them. It wasn’t something that normal people did. He had tamed animals such as lions and leopards.

At the end of dinner parties, Elagabalus let the beasts inside the party venue. There he tried to drive them closer to guests during the dessert course. Such incidents made guests and guards fed up easily.

Elagabalus had several other acts to disturb people. Once, he collected a ton of smokes and let it loose in the crowd, making them suffocate. Whenever people gathered for frequent games, Elagabalus busted such things.

He drove chariots driven by exotic animals like camels or elephants in the street to increase his tyranny. Because of Elagabalus’ notorious habit, people felt scared walking in the street.

1. Elagabalus was assassinated by his grandmother

Roman Emperor Elagabalus
Roman Emperor Elagabalus

Elagabalus and his grandmother had a loving relationship. He had her support from his birth until his death.

Since he was made an emperor at an early age, he was never towards his responsibilities. He needed support and guidance from his mother and grandmother.

However, he would spend his time dancing around the altar of the temple of Egabal. He would buy gold chamber pots, exotic food and spend the treasury of the Empire.

Elagabalus never bothered to discuss state matters and development. He was very careless in the matter of the empire. He would appoint the officers based on the size of their genitals.

When Elagabalus couldn’t bear any child, he was forced to announce his heir. Bassianus Alexanus, the son of Julia Mamaea Bassianus, was proclaimed the senior Emperor.

When he found his cousin a threat to his throne, he started planning to execute Alexanus. As a result, the family got divided. Julia Soaemis supported her son, Elagabalus. On the other, Julia Maesa and Julia Mamaea stood behind Alexanus.

Elagabalus ordered his guards the execution of Alexanus, but they did not accept the order. They were bribed by Maesa.

On March 13, 222 A.D., Elagabalus and his mother Julia Soaemis were executed on Julia Maesa. They were beheaded, dragged through the streets of Rome.

Conclusion

Elagabalus was the Roman emperor who earned the throne in his teenage. He filled his life with several religious controversies and sexual scandals. His short reign only remained a stigma in Roman history.

His transgender behavior was something that historians have debated frequently. It also pierces me to seek more information. Have you found anything that needs further to explore of Elagabalus? Check out the comment box.

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