Elagabalus: The Transgender Roman Emperor
Reign: 8 June 218 – 11 March 222
Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus was 14 years old when he became Roman Emperor. He is known to history as Elagabalus because he was from birth the high priest of the androgynous sun deity Elagabal. Elagabalus is recorded as having been one of the most infamous and degenerate figures in Roman history.
Elagabalus married and divorced five women but his most stable relationship seems to have been his chariot driver, a blond slave from Caria name Hierocles, whom he referred to as his husband. He married a man name Zoticus, an athlete from Smyrna, in a pubic ceremony at Rome.
When he was married to Hierocles, Elagabalus would dress like a woman and allow himself to be caught in the act of adultery by his husband, who would then beat him as husbands were then allowed to beat their wives.
Elagabalus would paint his eyes, epilate his hair and wear wigs before prostituting himself in taverns, brothels, and even in the imperial palace:
“Finally, he set aside a room in the palace and there committed his indecencies, always standing nude at the door of the room, as the harlots do, and shaking the curtain which hung from gold rings, while in a soft and melting voice he solicited the passers-by. There were, of course, men who had been specially instructed to play their part. For, as in other matters, so in this business, too, he had numerous agents who sought out those who could best please him by the size of their penis. He would collect money from his patrons and give himself airs over his gains; he would also dispute with his associates in this shameful occupation, claiming that he had more lovers than they and took in more money.”
He was described as having been “delighted to be called the mistress, the wife, the queen of Hierocles” and was reported to have offered vast sums of money to any physician who could equip him with female genitalia.
One of his palace orgies was the scene of an inadvertent massacre when so many flower petals were showered upon the banquet guests that dozens of people suffocated to death as they reclined on their couches.
He was known to harness teams of naked women to his chariot and whip them as they pulled him around the palace grounds.
On his head, he wore a crown in the shape of a tiara, glittering with gold and precious stones.
He preferred to spend his days in the company of the palace women, singing, dancing and weaving.
The soldiers were revolted at the sight of him. With his face made up more elaborately than a modest woman, he was effeminately dressed up in golden necklaces and soft clothes, dancing for everyone to see.
At the age of 18, in March 222 AD, Rome’s soldiers finally rebelled against their Emperor. After slaughtering his minions and tearing out their vital organs, they then fell upon Elagabalus as he hid cowering in a latrine. After killing him, they dragged his body through the streets by a hook and attempted to stuff it into a sewer. When it proved too big, they threw him into the River Tiber.