Elagabalus

Reece Period attributed: Period 10

Obverse image of a coin of Elagabalus

Member of the The Severans dynasty.

Coins for this issuer were issued from 218 until 222.

Varitus Avitus Bassianus was born in AD 203 or 204, in Syria. He rose to power when 14, because his mother claimed he was Caracalla’s illegitimate child and the army believed her. His mother and grandmother ultimately ran affairs, but Elagabalus was the iconic emperor.

Reportedly beautiful, Elagabalus was the chief priest of the eponymous Syrian sun-god. He attempted to introduce this cult to Rome, even bringing with him the huge stone which represented the god and building it a temple near the Colosseum. Elagabalus also had notorious sexual appetites for both men and women, and promised a huge reward to any doctor who could perform a sex-change operation. He married at least three women within four years. Eventually, the Roman army and senate could no longer respect Elagabalus, and the women behind his administration began quarrelling. He adopted the future Alexander Severus in an attempt to legitimize his power, but the Praetorian Guards murdered Elagabalus and his mother anyway.

Elagabalus had large eyes and a youthful, underdeveloped face. He tended to wear gold or purple tunics, and at times a female diadem.

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Record: BH-58A0FD
Object type: COIN
Broadperiod: ROMAN
Description: A Roman silver denarius of Elagabalus (AD&…
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Record: LVPL-9FD2AE
Object type: COIN
Broadperiod: ROMAN
Description: Silver denarius of Elagabalus (AD 218…
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Object type: COIN
Broadperiod: ROMAN
Description: An incomplete silver Denarius of Elagabalu…
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Record: FASAM-C4F415
Object type: COIN
Broadperiod: ROMAN
Description: Silver denarius of Elagabalus (AD 218-222…
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Information from Wikipedia

  • Preferred label: Elagabalus
  • Full names:
    • Elagabalus
  • Title: Consul of the Roman Empire
  • Predecessor: Macrinus
  • Successor: Severus Alexander
  • Definition: Elagabalus or Heliogabalus (c. 204 – 11 March 222), officially known as Antoninus, was Roman emperor from 218 to 222, while he was still a teenager. His short reign was conspicuous for sex scandals and religious controversy. A close relative to the Severan dynasty, he came from a prominent Arab family in Emesa (Homs), Syria, where since his early youth he served as head priest of the sun god Elagabal. After the death of his cousin the emperor Caracalla, Elagabalus was raised to the principate at 14 years of age in an army revolt instigated by his grandmother, Julia Maesa, against Caracalla's short-lived successor, Macrinus. As a private citizen, he was probably named Varius Avitus Bassianus. Upon becoming emperor he took the name Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, and only posthumously became known by the Latinised name of his god. Later historians suggest Elagabalus showed a disregard for Roman religious traditions and sexual taboos. He replaced the traditional head of the Roman pantheon, Jupiter, with the deity Elagabal, of whom he had been high priest. He forced leading members of Rome's government to participate in religious rites celebrating this deity, presiding over them in person. He married four women, including a Vestal Virgin, and lavished favours on male courtiers thought to have been his lovers. He was also reported to have prostituted himself. His behavior estranged the Praetorian Guard, the Senate, and the common people alike. Amidst growing opposition, at just 18 years of age he was assassinated and replaced by his cousin Severus Alexander in March 222. The assassination plot against Elagabalus was devised by his grandmother, Julia Maesa, and carried out by disaffected members of the Praetorian Guard. Elagabalus developed a reputation among his contemporaries for extreme eccentricity, decadence, zealotry, and sexual promiscuity. This tradition has persisted, and among writers of the early modern age he suffered one of the worst reputations among Roman emperors. Edward Gibbon, for example, wrote that Elagabalus "abandoned himself to the grossest pleasures with ungoverned fury". According to Barthold Georg Niebuhr, "the name Elagabalus is branded in history above all others" because of his "unspeakably disgusting life". 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." Despite universal condemnation of his reign, some scholars do write warmly about him, including 6th century Roman chronicler John Malalas, and Warwick Ball, a modern historian who described him as innovative and "a tragic enigma lost behind centuries of prejudice".
  • Parents:
  • Birth place:
  • Death place: Rome, Roman Italy
  • Spouse:
    • Other title(s):
      • Consul of the Roman Empire
      • List of Roman emperors
    • Came After:
      • Came before:
        • Macrinus
        • Marcus Oclatinius Adventus
      • Subjects on wikipedia:

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