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.
Locusta the Poisoner—Ancient Rome’s Deadliest Assassin,
Perhaps the most feared woman in the ancient world, Locusta was a first century AD assassin who offered her services to wealthy and powerful Roman patricians, politicians, and military leaders. So infamous were her deeds that her career was detailed by Juvenal, Seutonius, Cassius Dio, and Tacitus. Born in Gaul (modern day France) Locusta was raised by her mother to be an herbalist, a healer who specialized in using medicinal plants and herbs. However, her career abruptly changed when she moved to Rome in search for greater opportunities, she found that her skills could put to much more lucrative uses killing people rather than healing. Rome was rife with political intrigue, and skilled assassins were in high demand.
Locusta intensely studied poisonous plants, becoming a “master poisoner” in short time. She knew of scores of different poisons; poisons that could bring about a heart attack, poisons that could cause a stroke, poisons that affected the nervous system, even poisons that would make it seem like the victim had died of something completely natural, such as the flu or plague. For several years, Locusta hired out her services to wealthy patrician families and powerful politicians, or whoever was the highest bidder. In 54 AD Locusta was approached by Agrippina, wife of Emperor Claudius, with perhaps the biggest and most important job of her career; to assassinate the Emperor himself. Agrippina wanted her son from another marriage to be Emperor, and thus Claudius had to go. On October 13th, Locusta infiltrated Claudius’ palace, distracting a guard by placing a laxative in his drink. She then tainted a dish of mushrooms, Claudius’ favorite dish, with strychnine. Claudius consumed the poisoned mushrooms. A few hours later, he began suffering strong stomach cramps, then he began foaming at the mouth and convulsing. Agrippina appeared to attempt to force Claudius to vomit the poison by sticking a feather down his throat. Of course, the feather was also poisoned by Locusta with a potent toxin. Emperor Claudius died a short time later.
When Nero came to throne, he made Locusta his personal assassin. Among another of her famous hits was the poisoning of his brother, Britannicus, whom he felt threatened his rule. Between 55 and 68 AD, Locusta was responsible for removing a number of Nero’s rivals and enemies. Of course, Nero was not a popular Emperor, and after the burning of Rome he was stripped of his titles and declared an enemy of the state by the senate. After Nero’s suicide Rome fell into a chaotic civil war as Roman generals and warlords fought for control over the empire. One of these generals, a short reigning Emperor named Galba, despised Locusta because of her former status as Nero’s chief assassin. On January 15th, 69 AD, Locusta was dragged from her home into the streets of Rome, and was publicly executed.
The theatre at Hierapolis was built in the second century AD under the Roman Emperor Hadrian during a period of extensive rebuilding following a devastating earthquake in 60 AD. It was later renovated under Septimus Severus (193-211 AD). At this time, the scaenae frons was modified and decorated with elaborate limestone and marble carvings. Although the exterior is relatively unassuming as viewed from the front, the interior contains one of Anatolia’s most complete and best-preserved collection of Greco-Roman theatre decorations. In 343 AD the scaenae was renovated and the orchestra was altered so that it could hold aquatic displays. In the later years of the Roman Empire the orchestra was converted into a cellar. Renovation work since 1977 has restored many of the arches and a portion of the stage floor. Prior to this date, the stage as well as its arched support system lay in ruins. Recent archaeological evidence shows that the theatre was in use through the 5th and into the 6th century AD. In 532 AD the scaenae, which had been weakened by seismic activity, was repaired.
The traditional date for the fall of the Western Roman Empire is set at 476 AD. Other dates can be arguably used, but 476 is a good date to use when looking at Roman history from a simple viewpoint. The last Roman Emperor was Romulus Augustus, ironically named after Romulus, the founder of Rome, and Augustus the first Roman Emperor. The interesting thing about the story of the last Roman Emperor was that it had little to with Romulus Augustus. Rather, the de facto last Roman ruler was his father, a military man named Orestes.
By 475 AD the Western Roman Empire had almost crumbled away to dust. The empire consisted of little more than Italy, with some isolated territories in northwestern Gaul which had declared independence decades before, and some territories in North Africa which again were so far out of reach from the Imperial court that by that point they were managing their own affairs.
The Roman Army was barely Roman, mostly being made up of Germanic mercenaries which the empire could barely afford to pay. The capital of the empire wasn’t even Rome,having been moved to Ravenna in the year 402 because it was a more defensible location. The Roman Emperor ruled over nothing, rather being a puppet of Germanic rulers such as Ricimer and Gundobad. Orestes was the Roman magister militum appointed by the Empror Julius Nepos, basically the chief general of the army. Orestes date of birth is unknown but he had a long military career, at one point being ambassador to and secretary of Attila the Hun, then working his way up the ranks until he became a Roman general. Orestes wanted to restore the glory of Rome, to bring Rome back to the good old days when emperors were gods, the empire stretched across Europe and Africa, and no one dared mess with the legions.
On the 31st of October, 475 AD Orestes orchestrated a coup resulting in the overthrow of Nepos. Orestes had cultivated the loyalty of the mercenaries which made up the Roman Army, but also added some important incentives such as cash bonuses and Italian land. Orestes sent Nepos packing to Dalmatia, where Nepos would carve out a small rump state in exile until his death in 480 AD. Rather than naming himself emperor, Orestes chose his 16 year old son Romulus as emperor. Orestes was half German and believed the Roman people would be more accepting of a new emperor who had more Roman blood. However, the Roman people didn’t really take the young Romulus Augustus seriously, nicknaming him “Momyllus Augustulus”, Momyllus meaning “little disgrace” and Augustulus meaning “little Augustus”. While Orestes looked to restore the Roman Empire, the truth of the matter was that most Roman commoners were sick and tired of Imperial rule and all the bullshit that went with it such as overbearing taxes, rampant corruption, civil war, idiotic leaders, and a stagnant economy. In addition, the Eastern Roman Emperor Zeno also refused to recognize Romulus Augustus as a legitimate emperor, the blessings of the east being necessary for a stable reign.
Neither Orestes nor the “emperor” could really get anything done during their short reign, by that point the Imperial government was so powerless and crippled by lack of funds and corruption it might as well have not existed at all. Worse yet, the Germanic mercenaries who made up the ranks of the Roman Army were beginning to complain that Orestes wasn’t living up to his promises. Unfortunately for Orestes, the empire had no cash to spare and no patricians were willing to give up their lands for a bunch of barbarians. In anger, the mercenaries revolted against Orestes, naming an officer among their ranks named Odoacer to be their leader. Orestes gathered what few Italian troops he could that were still loyal to him and fled to Piacenza. However, Orestes small army was no match against Odoacer and his army. The last loyal Roman forces were easily crushed. Orestes was quickly captured and executed on the 28th of August. On the 4th of September, 476 Odoacer marched on Revenna and took the city without resistance. Romulus Augustus also abdicated without a fight.
Odoacer chose not to name another emperor, instead naming himself King of Italy and dispensing with the old Imperial system entirely. As for Romulus Augustus, the remainder of his life is unknown to history, but it is rumored that he was granted a state pension by Odoacer and lived out the rest of his life in peace. The Eastern Emperor Zeno gave Odoacer the title of Patrician and demanded that he recognize the rule of Julius Nepos. Odoacer refused to allow Nepos to return to Italy, and the Eastern Romans were to occupied dealing with the Ostrogoths to do anything about it. Thus, the Western Roman Empire came to an end.
Antinous (Roman) Lover to Roman Emperor Hadrian, Antinous was known for his extraordinary beauty. He was often compared to Adonis, or a living angel. When the Emperor Hadrian visited Bithnyia in 123 CE, the two fell in love, and Antinous was admitted to the Imperial court. When visiting Egypt in 130 CE, Antinous drowned in the Nile, coincidentally, the same day of the commemoration of Osiris’ drowning in the Nile. Hadrian’s grief caused him to deify Antinous, and the young man quickly became the object of a new cult. However, this cult and the god Antinous often came into conflict with Christianity, and as a result Christianity will condemn his relationship with Hadrian as immoral and cast off any acceptance of homosexuality.
All names/terms are depicted with the page in which they first appear in the American Gods Tenth Anniversary Edition of the author’s preferred text.