Was Emperor Elagabalus a Transgender?

Dec 2015
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#33
From what I've read he was pretty much a Caligula-tier lunatic. He believed that if he married a vestal virgin his children would be gods, and he identified himself with the Sun god. He was one of the most reviled emperors in all Roman history - which of course his transgenderism didn't help.
Indeed his grandmother who put him on the throne had him assassinated at 18. I had read that it was the rape of the Vestal Virgin that was the last straw. Also he married a new man for every year of his very short reign.
 
Dec 2015
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#34
One may say the Eastern part of The Empire was what Elagabalus was all about. That would lead me to ask a few questions,

Why would Elagabalus be allowed to become Emperor of Rome?

How many Syrian people or Arabs were a part of the Praetorian guard?

Those are great links you provide btw. One of your links led me to the following articles which shed light on some of the topics we have discussed. Earlier you or someone else noted how Elagabalus would dress in silk, and it turned off some of the Roman Elite, but its interesting to note how regular everyday Romans viewed the fashion style of Elagabalus(also known as Heliogabalus ). Elagabalus going by the following site seemed to have viewed himself as a Syrian not a Roman.

As high priest of the Sol Invictus cult Heliogabalus performed his ecstatic rites. Every morning he would appear in public, clad in his expensive Syrian robes and jewelry. (If we are believe our written sources, he was the first and only Roman emperor to dress in robes of pure, Chinese silk.) Accompanied by dancing women and music produced on flutes and drums, he performed the sacrifices to his god with the help of a college of priests under his rule.

His grandmother, Julia Maesa, was already deeply concerned with this behavior and tried to persuade her grandson to wear Roman clothing. This he refused. Cassius Dio calls his clothing barbaric and records the emperor's nickname "the Assyrian".note The Roman populace, on the other hand, may not have found his appearance as startling as Julia Maesa feared, considering that Heliogabalus had sent an image of himself before his arrival. Besides, many Romans already worshipped oriental gods.

Further here are some notes on the sexuality of Elagabalus. We can see that Dio another contemporary scholar has a seemingly negative view of Elagabalus. As you pointed out, it is difficult to determine the exact label of Elagablus..would it be Cis Genger, Transgender it could be a # of labels perhaps bisexual also comes to mind.

Several things were required of the high priest of Sol Invictus Elagabal, because Dio speaks of the emperor's circumcision and his abstinence from pork.note The historian also says that Heliogabalus had made plans to cut off his genitals altogether, but Dio does not believe that this had to do with the emperor's religion. Instead, he presents it as evidence of Heliogabalus' effeminacy. The circumcision, however, was carried out on other followers as well. All other facets of this religion were barbaric in Dio's eyes. The chanting, the innumerable amulets, animals that were kept either in the palace or in the temple, child sacrifice: Dio's catalogue of horrors is endless.note

Dio exaggerates. Jews and Egyptians also circumcised their boys and abstained from pork, and the Romans had no difficulties with these customs. The fault Dio finds in Heliogabalus is that he was an emperor and had to represent everything that the Roman people stood for. In order to stand at the top of the nation, an emperor was expected to set a good example in Roman virtues. Circumcision and abstaining from pork did not belong on this list. Dio was a senator, a conservative, and an elitarian.

Heliogabalus' religion (1) - Livius
 
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Dec 2015
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#35
On the child sacrifice allegation against Elagabalus(also known as Heliogabalus) We can see that Dio is disagreed with by other scholars. Still I find interesting to read about what any scholar contemporary or not has to say about Elagabalus.

Heliogabalus is also accused of child sacrifice. This charge has been noted in Cassius Dio and in the Historia Augusta. It is a lot more serious than the other charges. The author of the Historia Augusta says that the emperor chose beautiful, noble, young boys for these sacrifices, whose parents were still alive - all this in order to inflict more sadness and mourning. The sacrifices were carried out by magicians who studied the entrails afterwards.

Few scholars have been willing to accept this charge, which portrays Heliogabalus as a true monster. They see this information as another attempt to discredit the emperor and Semitic culture. It was a stereotypical accusation which was also thrown at Jews, Christians and Isis devotees. And in fact, the way the child sacrifice is described by Dio, including the inspection of the entrails, looks more like an old Etruscan tradition than a Semitic cult act.

Heliogabalus' religion (1) - Livius
 
Dec 2015
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USA
#36
Dio says that Elagabalus spoke and acted as a woman...which would lend to the view that Elagabalus was transgender. Dio appears to have disliked the effeminate ways of Elagabalus. That said Dio did have something positive to say of Elagabalus.

Cassius Dio records only one good deed of Heliogabalus: he never took revenge on those who had besmirched his name or that of his father. The sentence is followed by the following:

But, on the other hand, he drifted into all the most shameful, lawless and cruel practices…

Heliogabalus (3) - Livius


So to hear Dio saying that Elagabalus did not take revenge on those that disgraced his name is something that stands out. Why would Elagabalus have this trait, is it possible Christians influenced this trait or was it something completely different having nothing to do with Christians? The act of not engaging in revenge is a Christian trait but also such a trait is found in numerous non Christian movements. And the very link I provide also suggests that Elagabalus was leaning toward a sort of monotheist approach to religion which again ties into Christianity.

It has been assumed that there was a general tendency towards monotheism in the third century, and if one believes this, one can also discern this tendency in Heliogabalus' religious reforms. It is even possible to think that the cult of Sol Invictus Elagabal exerted much influence on Roman religious life from the third century and onwards. However, most scholars believe that Heliogabalus was not the architect of monotheism. Other gods were worshipped in Emesa as well and, as we have seen, Heliogabalus did not ignore them. The accusation that the emperor wished to destroy all other gods in order to venerate only his own god cannot be defended.

Heliogabalus' Religion (2) - Livius
 
#37
One thing I have yet to find is how did Elagabulus Treat Christians? I would imagine it would have been negative but perhaps there’s more to the picture than meets the eye .
There were no persecutions under Elagabalus. Christianity wasn't legal (it wouldn't become legal until Gallienus in 260), but there was no attempt at persecuting Christians that can be linked to Elagabalus. In fact, empire-wide persecutions don't become a thing until Decius (259-251).
 
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#38
What is interesting about this topic is that A mere 20 years after the rule of Elagabulus We had the emperor known as Philip the Arab who was also a Syrian but who is said to have been sympathetic to Christians. That is two Syrian emperors of Rome in a one century period That I know of perhaps there were others?
The emperor Septimius Severus (193-211) was married to a Syrian from Emesa, Julia Domna, when he came to power. Their sons Geta (211) and Caracalla (211-217) were thus half-Syrian. The emperor Severus Alexander (222-235) was Elagabalus' cousin and was likewise from Emesa in Syria.

The usurper Jotapianus (248/9) was, like the emperor he was challenging (Philip the Arab), a Syrian.

The usurper Uranius Antoninus (252/3) was, like Elagabalus and Severus Alexander, an Emesene. He came to power because the people of Syria wanted a present emperor to defend them against the invasions of Shapur I of Persia.

Yet another Syrian local saviour against the Persians was Odainath of Palmyra, who in 262 called himself King of Kings as a challenge to Shapur's authority, but who stopped short of denying his own subordination to the emperor Gallienus. However, a few years after his death, his son and wife, Wahballath and Zenobia, were declared Augustus and Augusta (in 272).

The empress Eutropia, wife of Maximian (285/6-305), mother of Maxentius (306-312) and mother-in-law of Constantine (306-337) was a Syrian.
 
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#39
Why would Elagabalus be allowed to become Emperor of Rome?

How many Syrian people or Arabs were a part of the Praetorian guard?
Elagabalus came to power for two reasons:

1. He was a member of the Severan dynasty, which was a Libyo-Syrian dynasty. Septimius Severus, a Libyan, had forcibly seized power as a general on the Danube in 193, and his wife was the Emesene Syrian Julia Domna. By this time, increasing numbers of Libyans, Syrians and other provincials within the empire were Roman citizens, and the Constitutio Antoniniana of 212 ensured that nearly all free-born males in the empire became citizens. Septimius Severus has often been regarded as the first provincial emperor, but many would follow as the provincial aristocracies and the armies became increasingly involved in imperial politics. His grandmother Julia Maesa (sister of Julia Domna) and mother Julia Soaemias strengthened Elagabalus' credentials by claiming that he was a son of Caracalla, Septimius Severus' eldest son.

2. Local recruitment had been common sine the early second century, meaning that most of the soldiers on or near the eastern frontier were Syrians. Moreover, Dio and Herodian both state that the soldiers of a particular legion based near Emesa were familiar with Elagabalus since they knew him as a priest whenever they visited the temple of Elagabal. So local familiarity helped Elagabalus to win military approval against the emperor Macrinus, who was then based in Syria finishing up the war with the Parthians.

The praetorian guard in 218, when Elagabalus seized power in the east, was probably not filled with many Syrians, but it fought for Macrinus against the legions loyal to Elagabalus and lost. It is possible that Elagabalus later filled the praetorian ranks with soldiers more likely to be loyal, since this had also been the practice of Vespasian and Septimius Severus after similarly being opposed by the praetorians.
 
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#40
The Roman populace, on the other hand, may not have found his appearance as startling as Julia Maesa feared, considering that Heliogabalus had sent an image of himself before his arrival. Besides, many Romans already worshipped oriental gods.
I think it's plausible that the senatorial aristocracy were more conservative when it came to matters of dress and decorum than the common people. After all, the senators found Nero's public musical and dramatic performances to be unfitting for an emperor, but Nero appears to have been a fairly popular emperor outside of senatorial circles.

As for identity, one could be a Syrian and a Roman. I suspect that Elagabalus' insistence on wearing his priestly garb attests more to the importance that he attached to his role as Pontifex Maximus (chief priest), which he had interwoven with his earlier role as a priest of Elagabal.

As for the comments about circumcision, I'm not sure that the quotes that I provided earlier about the 'of two natures' surgery can really be interpreted in that way. I suppose it could be a bizarre reference to circumcision, but I'm sceptical. The surgery claim is so unique, and Dio doesn't connect it to religion or culture.
 
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