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Key information:


Birthdate: 203 or 204 CE. 

(Herodian 5.3.3)

Birthplace: Unclear, but most likely Emesa (modern-day Homs, Syria). 

(Cassius Dio, Roman History, 79.31) (Historia Augusta, Life of Elagabalus, 1) (Herodian 5.3.2-4)

Reign: Elagabalus was declared emperor by troops stationed in Syria on May 16, 218 CE. He launched a civil war, and defeated his predecessor, Macrinus, at the Battle of Antioch on June 8, 218 CE. 

(​​Herodian 5.3.12 & 5.4.6)

Marriages: Elagabalus had numerous romantic entanglements. He was married to three different women, and may have married two men as well. 

Julia Cornelia Paula (219-220 CE)
Aquilia Severa (220–221, 221–222 CE)
Annia Aurelia Faustina (221 CE)

(Herodian 5.6.1-2)

Aurelius Zoticus

(Cassius Dio, Roman History, 80.15) (Historia Augusta, Life of Elagabalus, 10) 

Death: Due to his bizarre and erratic behavior, Elagabalus lost the support of the army. In March 222 CE, Elagabalus and his mother, Julia Soaemias, were killed by the Praetorian Guard. After death, his body was mutilated and thrown in the Tiber River. 

(Herodian 5.8.8-9) (Cassius Dio, Roman History, 80.20)

Bust of Elagabalus, NY Carlsberg Glyptothek, Copenhagen, Sept 2019
Portrait of Elagabalus, Colosseum, Rome, Feb 2019
Denarius of Elagabalus, Getty Villa Collection, Los Angeles, California, United States

Famous facts and dates

Elagabalus served as the chief priest of the sun god Elagabal, which took the form of a black stone. While in Rome, he declared that Elagabal would replace Jupiter as chief deity of the Roman pantheon.
(Herodian 5.3.4-6 & 5.5.7) (Historia Augusta, Life of Elagabalus, 6)
Elagabalus violated Roman law in 220 CE when he married the vestal virgin Aquilia Severa. For any other Roman, this would have been a death penalty offense.
(Historia Augusta, Life of Elagabalus, 6) (Herodian 5.6.2)
Elagabalus expressed interest in changing his sex, and may have been transgender.
(Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book 80.15-17)
After his death, the Roman Senate damned Elagabalus’ memory and erased his name from inscriptions and public records.
(Historia Augusta, Life of Elagabalus, 17) 

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Cite this page as: Darius Arya, The American Institute for Roman Culture, “Elagabalus,” Ancient Rome Live. Last modified 6/5/2023.


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