31 Facts About Elagabalus


Marcus Aurelius Antoninus "Elagabalus", was Roman emperor from 218 to 222, while he was still a teenager.

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Elagabalus replaced the traditional head of the Roman pantheon, Jupiter, with the deity Elagabal, of whom he had been high priest.

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Elagabalus forced leading members of Rome's government to participate in religious rites celebrating this deity, presiding over them in person.

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Elagabalus married four women, including a Vestal Virgin, and lavished favours on male courtiers thought to have been his lovers.

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The assassination plot against Elagabalus was devised by Julia Maesa, his grandmother, and carried out by disaffected members of the Praetorian Guard.

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Edward Gibbon, for example, wrote that Elagabalus "abandoned himself to the grossest pleasures with ungoverned fury".

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An example of a modern historian's assessment is Adrian Goldsworthy's: "Elagabalus was not a tyrant, but he was an incompetent, probably the least able emperor Rome had ever had.

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Marcellus's tombstone attests that Elagabalus had at least one brother, about whom nothing is known.

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Elagabalus's family held hereditary rights to the priesthood of the sun god Elagabal, of whom Elagabalus was the high priest at Emesa in Roman Syria as part of the Arab Emesene dynasty.

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The deity's Latin name, "Elagabalus", is a Latinized version of the Arabic ??? ????? Ilah al-Jabal, from ilah and jabal ("mountain"), meaning "God of the Mountain", the Emesene manifestation of Ba'al.

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Maesa spread a rumor, which Soaemias publicly supported, that Elagabalus was the illegitimate child of Caracalla and so deserved the loyalty of Roman soldiers and senators who had sworn allegiance to Caracalla.

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Month, Elagabalus wrote to the Senate, assuming the imperial titles without waiting for senatorial approval, which violated tradition but was a common practice among third-century emperors.

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Elagabalus stayed for a time at Antioch, apparently to quell various mutinies.

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Elagabalus himself held a consulship for the third year in a row in 220.

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Dio states that Elagabalus wanted to marry a charioteer named Hierocles and to declare him caesar, just as he had previously wanted to marry Gannys and name him caesar.

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Elagabalus aroused further discontent when he married the Vestal Virgin Aquilia Severa, Vesta's high priestess, claiming the marriage would produce "godlike children".

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Dio writes that in order to increase his piety as high priest of Elagabal atop a new Roman pantheon, Elagabalus had himself circumcised and swore to abstain from swine.

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Elagabalus forced senators to watch while he danced circling the altar of Elagabal to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals.

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Elagabalus ran backward in front of the chariot, facing the god and holding the horses' reins.

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Elagabalus made the whole journey in this reverse fashion, looking up into the face of his god.

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Dio states that another "husband of this woman [Elagabalus] was Hierocles", an ex-slave and chariot driver from Caria.

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Dio says Elagabalus delighted in being called Hierocles's mistress, wife, and queen.

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Elagabalus stoked the animus of Roman elites and the Praetorian Guard through his perceptibly foreign conduct and his religious provocations.

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However, Elagabalus reconsidered this arrangement when he began to suspect that the Praetorian Guard preferred his cousin to himself.

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Elagabalus ordered various attempts on Alexander's life, after failing to obtain approval from the Senate for stripping Alexander of his shared title.

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Elagabalus 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 eighteen.

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Elagabalus was a senator under emperor Commodus and governor of Smyrna after the death of Septimius Severus, and then he served as suffect consul around 205, and as proconsul in Africa and Pannonia.

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In other instances, Dio's account is inaccurate, as when he says Elagabalus appointed entirely unqualified officials and that Comazon had no military experience before being named to head the Praetorian Guard, when in fact Comazon had commanded the Third Legion.

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Elagabalus is considered an important source for the religious reforms which took place during the reign of Elagabalus, which have been confirmed by numismatic and archaeological evidence.

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Elagabalus described ancient stories pertaining to the emperor as “part of a long tradition of 'character assassination' in ancient historiography and biography.

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Elagabalus was simply the loser in a power struggle within the imperial family; the loyalty of the Praetorian Guards was up for sale, and Julia Maesa had the resources to outmaneuver and outbribe her grandson.

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