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Elagabalus, Lover Of Rome


Story Time!!

Once upon a 203-222 AD, there lived a Trans queen called Elagabalus! The most scandalous Roman emperor you've ever heard of. At just 14 years of age, a young Elagabalus stunned the Romans when she arrived from Syria with an army to take the throne. Elagabalus' mother claimed her daughter had the right to rule as the illegitimate child of the previous emperor. The teenage conqueror was intent on ruling, but just like trans people today, she was intent on living her truth as the woman she was on the inside – even after being raised as a boy.

The people of Elagabalus's time did not accept her identity and didn't refer to her using female pronouns. The public viewed Elagabalus as an eccentric young man wearing women's clothes and didn't respect her for it. On top of Elagabalus being a transwoman, she was also a foreigner that believed in different gods and traditions. She did not conform to Roman traditions and beliefs. She ignored advisors' pleas to dress in typical male attire. Alternatively, she had a portrait sent over of her dressed in ostentatious robes to allow people to grow accustomed to her style of dress- I guess that's one way to clap back at haters!

She was known to be quite the diva and a lavish spender, held massive banquets serving peacock tongues, flamingo brains, goose livers and camel heels! She dressed in the finest materials, had a golden statue of her likeness erected in her honour, and had canals filled with wine – anyone for a beverage!


Elagabalus, Lover Of Rome

Elagabalus had a voracious sexual appetite. She married two men and five women in her four years as emperor. This excludes her hook-ups and extramarital affairs. Although, really, for Roman emperors, this doesn't exactly deviate from the norm. Not to mention she was the teenage ruler of one of the most powerful nations on earth. Try grounding that! Although Elagabalus identified as female, her marriages to men were considered same-sex. The concept of homosexuality and bisexuality was not new to the Romans, as same-sex marriages had taken place with other emperors and men having relationships with men was widely accepted. However, by Elagabalus' time, support for same-sex relationships was waning, and Christian ideology would soon wipe out Rome's tolerant stance on same-sex relationships.

All Things Come To An End

Even with all the money and power, Elagabalus never got the one thing she desired above all else. Which was to transition into the woman she knew she was on the inside. She offered an enormous reward to any doctor that could surgically alter her genitalia. She never found a doctor able to perform this surgery.

After Three years and nine months of Elagabalus' reign, her guards could no longer take the shame and scandal. They killed Elagabalus and those closest to her. The bodies of Elagabalus and her mother were dumped in a sewer that led to the Tiber River.

Historians barely mention Elagabalus' story as she barely spent any time actually doing work as a politician and did not leave behind a long list of reforms. She was far from the greatest ruler on earth, but she will go down in history as someone who lived her truth, regardless of anyone else's thoughts. Even if her light was snuffed out, it is clear that this queen shone brightly!

References:

Darling, H.-H. (2023) Elagabalus, Making Queer History. Available at: https://www.makingqueerhistory.com/articles/2017/9/24/elagabalus-the-empress (Accessed: 12 June 2023).

Herodian 5.5 (no date) Livius. Available at: https://www.livius.org/sources/content/herodian-s-roman-history/herodian-5.5/ (Accessed: 12 June 2023).

Herodian 5.8 (no date) Livius. Available at: https://www.livius.org/sources/content/herodian-s-roman-history/herodian-5.8/ (Accessed: 12 June 2023).

Hersch, K.K. (2010) The Roman Wedding: Ritual and Meaning in Antiquity . Cambriage : Cambridge University Press .

Icks, M. (2011) The Crimes of Elagabalus: The life and Legacy of Rome’s Decadent Boy Emperor . 1st edn. I.B Tauris.

(No date) Elagabalus: The genderqueer ruler of rome - classical association. Available at: https://classicalassociation.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Queering-the-Pasts-Chapter-2-Elagabalus-.pdf (Accessed: 14 June 2023).

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