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Elagabalus was emperor of Rome from A.D. 218 - 222 succeeding Macrinus who had been assassinated when he became unpopular with the military after he tried to cut the pay of the troops. Elagabalus was chosen because of his bloodline to Severus. He took the name Elagabalus in reverence for the Syrian sun god.[1]

Elagabalus is likely to have been homosexual.[2] He had numerous male lovers and showed little desire for any of his five wives. He was also reported to have offered large sums of money to any doctor who could provide him with female genitalia.[2]

About 13 years of age at the time of his ascension to the throne, the empire was ruled by his forceful mother, Julia Soaemias.[3] She was the hereditary high priestess of Baal at Emesa in Syria. "Elagabalus" means "Baal at Emesa."[4]

According to Edward Gibbon:

The master of the Roman world affected to copy the manners and dress of the female sex, preferring the distaff to the sceptre, and dishonored the principal dignities of the empire by distributing them among his numerous lovers; one of whom was publicly invested with the title and authority of the emperor's, or, as he more properly styled himself, the empress's husband. It may seem probable, the vices and follies of Elagabalus have been adorned by fancy, and blackened by prejudice. Yet, confining ourselves to the public scenes displayed before the Roman people, and attested by grave and contemporary historians, their inexpressible infamy surpasses that of any other age or country.[5]

Elagabalus adopted his cousin Alexander Severus as his successor. Although Elagabalus treated his soldiers well, they despised him on account of his lifestyle. The Praetorian Guard murdered Elagabalus in 222, paving the way for his cousin to rule.


  1. Encyclopedia of Military History, Dupuy & Dupuy, 1979
  2. 2.0 2.1 "'Elagabalus' Varius Avitus Bassianus (AD 204 - AD 222) Roman Empire Net.
  3. An Encyclopedia of World History, Kingsport Press, 1948
  4. "Elagabalus", Britannica
  5. Gibbon, Edward, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter VI.