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May 14, 2007 | by  | in Opinion |
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R.I.P Elagabalus, First Empress of Rome, 204-222 AD.

Elagabalus, otherwise known as Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, was crowned Rome’s twenty-fifth imperial overlord at the tender age of fourteen. A troop of moody soldiers – camped out and upset at the death of their beloved emperor Caracalla – stumbled upon the young princeling while he was ensconced in fine robes and jewel-studded shoes, celebrating sacred rites of the Most Pointy Black Stone of the Sun God Elah-Gabal (from whom the young ruler took his name).

A spry and feisty child with a taste for bejeweled gowns, his coronation was arranged by Elagabalus’ scheming grandmamma, Julia Maesa. It was intended to culminate in his marriage to the Carthaginian sun-goddess, Tanit. When this fell through (probably due to the difficulties inherent in coupling with a divine statue), he was wed sacrilegiously to a Vestal Virgin, Aquilia Severa, forcing her to break a divine life of chastity for the sake of a barren marriage.

Barren, for none of these entanglements with holy women (cooked up to appeal to the great frat-boy network that was the Roman army) really appealed to the lad. By promoting his God of the Unconquered Sun over the family gods of Rome, Elagabalus flirted dangerously with moral outrage. Living in a constant state of paranoia that granny would lop him off and replace him with cousin Alex did not help him cope with the fickle power-games of Rome.

But what really ground the gears of the imperium was that Elagabalus decided he would rather be empress than emperor. With fair locks of hair ensconced in a tiara and toes treading in powders of silver and gold, he traipsed about his many palaces in feminine negligees. He would throw whores from their brothels so that he might have first pick of Rome’s stable hands, whom he would take to bed as his emperors-for-the-night. His favourite squeeze was the charioteer and former slave, Hierocles. The ‘empress’ demanded that Hierocles beat him when he was a very naughty girl – which was often, as he sent agents all through Rome to find men with large shafts, for his pleasure.

But Elagabalus was not happy. He so wanted to be empress that he squandered a fortune searching for a way to surgically implant a vulva upon his royal flesh. Technology was not up to the job, and Rome tired of his tendency to promote his hick boyfriend to offices of great power. Thus, after he failed to do away with cousin Alex, his military guard turned upon him. His bloodied body, besides that of his dear mum, was found mashed in the Tiber, one spring morning in 218. Poor, lost, sparkly boy.

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About the Author ()

Tristan Egarr edited in 2008. He threw a chair once.

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