Unpopular Ancient Roman Emperor ”“ Elagabalus

The Crisis of the 3rd Century (also called the “Military Anarchy” or “Imperial Crisis”) was a time period in ancient Roman history that marked the near collapse of the Empire. Invasions ran rampant, many civil wars erupted, plague wiped out communities, and the economy was taking a dive. Some say that Elagabalus’ reign jumpstarted this turmoil point in Rome that lasted from 235 to 284.  In this article, you will learn more about the ancient Roman emperor who ruled from 218 to 222.

When Elagabalus (originally named Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus) took the throne, he was only 14 years old and he saw it as an opportunity to take advantage of all the things that came with being a position of power. This was his time to indulge in any fantasy his heart desired. However, he did not run into the arms of women ”“ he actually wanted to become a female himself. He offered to pay a lot of money to the doctor that could transform him into a woman. Until this could happen, he kept busy dressing in women’s clothing and sleeping with endless men in the whorehouses about town. No one knew who he was because when he escaped into the city, he was in a female disguise and covered his features with face cosmetics.

Elagabalus was also known for soliciting men in the Imperial Palace. Sometimes, he’d stand completely nude in the doorway of his favorite bedroom and purr at those who passed by ”“ even his Praetorian Guards. At one point, he contemplated taking matters into his own hands and had a conversation with the head of the Guard on the best method of castration. He wanted to know what approach would cause the most pain ”“ cutting, crushing or cooking on open coals. In his short life, it is rumored that he had up to thousands of affairs with men and women while he was married to a Vestal virgin, which the Romans took as a serious offense.

One of things that Elagabalus did while he was ruler of Rome was to established the Syrian sun god, El-Gabal, as the chief god of Rome. This deity would surpass even Jupiter. He transferred all of Rome’s sacred relics from the temples they originally resided in to a new temple that he constructed for El-Gabal, which he called the Elagabalium. He also named himself the high priest of the temple.

Four years passed before the Roman people could no longer take it. The citizens started to riot against the emperor. They demanded that he die or become disposed from his position. When Elagabalus heard the people’s wishes, it is said that he walked into the Praetorian encampment and demanded the arrest and execution of everyone. However, everyone pounced upon him and his mother. The tried to hide in a large chest filled with clothes, but they opened it and stabbed him to death. He and his mother lost their heads and were dragged throughout Rome. His body was then tossed into the Tiber River. At the time of his death, he was only 18 years old. When he was assassinated, his cousin Alexander Seveus replaced him as the new ruler of Rome.