Emperor Elagabalus; the Teenage Pervert

When the emperor Caracalla was murdered in 217, the fourteen-year-old Elagabalus succeeded him. He only ruled for 4 years, but in that short period of time he commited a variety of grotesque and debauched acts, enough to make Caligula and Commodus seem rather plain.

His real name was Bassianus but as he developed an intense interest in worshippng the Syrian god Elagabal, became High Priest of the cult and so had his name changed to Elagabalus. To honor his god, he demanded that hundereds of cattle were slaughtered daily on huge sacrificial altars. He had a temple built on the Palatine Hill and ordered the Romans to worship a statue of a giant phallus, which didn't go down very well at all...
Eventually he decided he was the god embodied. He started to wear women's clothes and make-up, implored his surgeons to cut his penis off and make him a vagina and when they said tehy could not do this he settled for circumcision. His body is said to have been very effeminate and he had a multitude of male companions. At some point it is said that he "married" a freedman called Hierocles and called him his husband.
As well as being a transvestite and obviously rather confused, Elagabalus was also a masochist, arrabging for his lovers to catch him cheating on them so that they would beat the living daylights out of him, therefore giving him even more pleasure. His body was permanently covered with bruises and marks left from these beatings. Cassius Dio informs us:

"...he would go to taverns by night wearing a wig, and there ply the trade of a female prostitute. He frequented the notorious brothels, drove out the prostitutes and played the prostitude himself. he finally set a aside a room in the palace, and there committed his indecencies, always standing nude at teh door of the room...while in a soft and melting voice he solicited the passers by."

He had a public bath built in the palace, so he could go there and pick out the men with the biggest penises.
In 220 A.D. he raped a Vestal Virgin and forced her to marry him. This for the Romans was a terrible thing to do.
His cruelty also had no limits. Once he ordered a servant to fetch him a big packet of cobwebs and when the unfortunate man turned up empty handed, he had him locked up in a cage and eaten alive by hundreds of starving rats.
Elagabalus loved to pin his enemies to the wall and stick hot pokers into them, peel their skin off and dip them in salt.... *cringe*
He ordered mass human sacrifices of young boys and girls to satisfy his god and whenever he entered Rome he demanded that his priests meet him with golden bowls full of children's intestines..

On the 11th March 222 the people had had enough. They hunted him down and in a toilet where he had saught refuge and stabbed him to death. He was 18. His friends were mutilated and impaled.


Anonymous said…
I've rarely met a teenager who *isn't* a pervert.
Rym Rytr said…
I was instantly aware of how much that "bust" facially resembles Bob Denver, the Star of "Giligan's Island". :o)
John Doom said…
I'm always impressed with the new things I learn from your blog...
You rule.
Aginoth said…
What a nasty piece of work...
Anna said…
Yes, the phrase "good riddance" is really well deserved for this guy. :-))
Anonymous said…
I imagine rape was a terrible thing to do for any culture.
Anna said…
I was not refering to the act of rape. The Romans were outraged at the rape of a Vestal Virgin. The Vestal Virgins were supposed to remain virgins all their life, dedicated to the goddess Vesta. If they broke this rule the penalty was to be buried alive. Roman attitudes to rape were very much dependant on who was being raped. A Vestal Virgin or a lady of the aristocracy being raped was seen as outrageous, whereas the rape of a subordinate or slave was not something anyone was shocked about in Ancient Roman society.
Nick said…
Wasn't he the chap with the unfeasible orgy story? Apparently he decided to give his orgiasts a special treat by showering them with rose petals. Unfortunately, he overdid it with the petals & released a torrent of them from a false ceiling in the palace . . . which smothered the party-goers under a layer of petals seven feet deep. They all suffocated. Must've been an interesting way to go . . .
Anonymous said…
Heh. Elagabalus was definitely a new low, and I'm always rather surprised he doesn't get as much publicity as Caligula when it comes to the "bad emperors".

I seem to recall he was followed by another Syrian emperor, Alexander Severus, who was as ineffectual as Elagabalus was extreme. That said, I think there is a case to be made for saying that, by this point in the Empire, the emperor was just a figurehead who was used by whomever his backers were. How else can one explain the likes of Elagabalus? It was only with the coming of Constantine that any measure of authority was truly exercised by an Emperor. And even that only last because of the splitting of East and West.
Anna said…
Yes, Constantine the Great was a crucial figure in the continuation of the Roman Empire. He was the one who decided to move the capital from Rome to Byzantium.

Elagabalus doesn't get as much attention as Caligula, primarily because he was just a silly teenager and not of Julio Claudian decent. Like commodus, his ancestors were not of great interest to scholars. Of course, if Suetonius had written about him I have no doubt that we would have heard more of him...
Anonymous said…
That was very useful for my project. Although I see you've made small spelling mistakes like "worshipping", "they", and "arrangin". But aside from that nice job!
andtomill said…
I think you will find that most historians now believe that most of these stories were a sort of character assassination disseminated after his death. While there is little doubt that he was not a great ruler (after all he was only a teenager) it is now disputed that he was as bad as history depicted him. A common form of character assassination of the time was to say that the male was passive when it came to sex which was a humiliating insult (some of Julius Caesar's enemies claimed he was passive to male lovers) so a lot of these claims should be taken with a pinch of salt. Although it is entirely possible that Elagabalus was likely homosexual or did indeed have some sort of gender dysphoria i have great doubts that he was as bad as history portrays him. And to think the architect of his downfall was his own grandmother you gotta love those Roman families.
beatrix said…
right up to the vestial virgin and beyond I was like "so? how is he worsde then Caligula..."

but all in all from what I read about Caligula I'd say they were pretty on par with cruelty and depravity. what was it with roman emporers and being sick and depraved?
Unknown said…
i think he was awesome
Unknown said…
Can't believe someone like this ruled Rome,and more perverted than Caligula or Commodus.Amazinh feedback,Thanks
mermed said…
I wrote a poem - in French - abour Elagabalus
I hope you like it

Hérodian et aussi Edward Gibbon,

me font revivre dans vos mémoires,

et avec moi les empereurs Néron

ou Caracalla… Dans les vieux grimoires

de vos greniers vous lirez leur histoire

et la mienne et comment de Varius

je devins l’empereur Elagabulus.

À l’âge où l’on va encore à l’école,

des lambeaux de Rome j‘étais l‘empereur;

chaque sept jours j’allais sous la coupole

du sénat, comme un improbable acteur

qui se pavane pour ses adulateurs,

offert à tous, catin fardée soutenue

sur mon char par sept vierges nues.

Et ils m’attendaient les teens en transes,

comme une extravagante drag queen,

moi, empereur de Rome, premier trans;

j’étais le soleil de ma vie divine

rythmée par les lignes de cocaïne

pour supporter la greffe du vagin

qui me ferait roi de toutes les putains.

Je disais les noms, urbi et orbi,

de mes cinq femmes, le nom de mon mari,

l’esclave Hierocles de Carie;

j’étais sa chose, à lui toujours soumis,

en pensées le jour, dans son lit la nuit.

Je chérissais les rêves de désir

avant les petites morts du plaisir.

Grand prêtre du temple en Emesene,

je voulus être l’époux de Tanit

la déesse, Vénus Carthagène,

et celui de la vestale de granit

à qui en de sélénites coïtes

réservés aux accouplements divins

j’aurais fait des enfants presque humains.

C’est ce voulait mon âme virginale;

je ne fus que la gouape racoleuse

devant le bordel international,

cette métamorphose luxurieuse

de mon palais, résidence luxueuse

où je vivais dans un cauchemar d’Éros,

rêve de Cupidon sur son lit de roses.

En Mars, quelque jours avant les Ides,

j’avais dix-huit ans, c’était en vingt deux

du second siècle, des soldats apatrides

me pénétrèrent de leurs dards furieux

mettant un terme à mes jours licencieux.

Les eaux du Tibre nous charrièrent en enfer

moi, à peine ado, et avec moi ma mère.

Et maintenant que le monde a vieilli,

moi, prêtre du soleil et dépravé

tel que j’étais dans cet empire ramolli

le temps à travers les âges m’a laissé,

en l’innocence de ma lascivité;

les vieux acheteurs de lubricité.

jalousent tous ma vraie ambigüité.

© Mermed 2005-2015

Effleurements livresques, épanchements maltés - Overblog

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