The Crimes of Elagabalus: The Life and Legacy of Rome's Decadent Boy Emperor

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I.B.Tauris, Aug 30, 2011 - Biography & Autobiography - 288 pages
Elagabalus was one of the most notorious of Rome's 'bad emperors': a sexually-depraved and eccentric hedonist who in his short and riotous reign made unprecedented changes to Roman state religion and defied all taboos. An oriental boy-priest from Syria - aged just fourteen when he was elevated to power in 218 CE - he placed the sun god El-Gabal at the head of the established Roman pantheon, was married at least five times, engaged in orgiastic rituals, took male and female lovers, wore feminine dress and was alleged to have prostituted himself in taverns and even inside the imperial palace. His behaviour drew criticism and condemnation from the Senate and the people alike. In 222 CE, just four years after he came to power, his short reign ended abrumptly and violently when he was assassinated by the Praetorian Guard at the age of eighteen and his body dumped unceremoniously in the river Tiber. Although not as widely known as Caligula or Nero, Elagabalus's reputation for luxury, licentiousness and insanity is just as extreme, if not more so. The ancient authors who described his reign portrayed him as one of Rome’s notorious ‘bad emperors’ and he has since become an object of fascination for historians and a source of inspiration for artists and writers. This immensely readable book examines the life of one of the Roman Empire's most colourful figures, and charts the many guises of his legacy: from evil tyrant to firebrand rebel, from mystical androgyne to modern gay teenager, from decadent sensualist to ancient pop star.

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The problem with Elagablus as a subject is that his reign was short, and the sources of information about it, thin. Martijn Icks basically covers anything you need to know in 40 pages. The remaining ... Read full review


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