They say the story usually hides the essence of the truth, but only if it is researched. That details are overlooked, secrets are kept and reality is often invented giving it an interested touch. The Roman Empire has always been shown to us as a period of great warriors, excellent thinkers and fathers of modern politics. However, Heliogabalus is an exception that deserves a few lines.
And it is that the emperor Heliogabalus is the great unknown, often put aside the Greco-Roman books for the supposed need to preserve “the historical honor of the founders of the West”. It turns out that this young man was anything but normal and, in particular, he is particularly offensive to Christian moralism which has always tried to bind itself to European values.
Not that he was the typical outrageous governor with his public appearances or that he appreciated all the mistresses his privileged status bestowed upon him. Heliogabalus was a character out of his time, in part because he was the first known transsexual in history, In addition to a danger to loved ones, for other reasons.
Who was Heliogabalus?
Many history books have attempted to forgive the misdeeds of the most controversial politicians, enlarging their figure as if it were a Hollywood movie, in order to create a romantic tale of the epic tale of the ancestors of certain nations. In other cases, however, embellishing a biography is too difficult.We therefore choose to ignore these characters who, although they deserve to be remembered, do not correspond to the “official” story.
Some of Rome’s most famous Caesars, such as Nero, Commodus, Caligula, and Galba, were directly responsible for the downfall of what was one of the greatest empires in history. Of all these names, there is one that magically disappears from all the texts we know or have read diagonally about the Roman Empire, perhaps, to be considered one of the worst of its kind by the historians, at least not until so long ago.
Heliogabalus, Elagabalus in Latin, was born in the city of Emesa, in the Roman province of Syria. in 203, and died assassinated in Rome in 222 barely out of his adolescence. He was a Roman Emperor with a fleeting tenure, as he only reigned from 218 until the date of his death, a total of four years. It was his grandmother Júlia Mesa who, with her political influences, plotted against the current Emperor, Marc Opelio Macrí, to raise her grandson Heliogabalus.
Heliogabalus, the first transsexual in history
The convergence between expert historians of ancient Rome is unanimous. “He was one of the worst in his class,” say those who wrote about him. Some of the most renowned authors such as Elio Lampridio and Barthold Georg, they went so far as to apologize for describing in detail some of Heliogabalus’ actions.
As emperor, Heliogabalus was a time bomb. Coming to power at the age of fourteen, his tenure as emperor was a sort of permanent celebration of eroticism. It is said that he engaged in prostitution, hired a regiment of prostitutes and, above all, wanting to have surgical sex. However, the level of technological development at the time did not allow it, no matter how much he insisted on doctors.
Of course, the fact that from an early age Heliogabalus wanted to have the body of a woman, as well as his attraction to men, has earned him the rejection of many historians over the centuries. However, today, in a context where homophobia is rapidly receding in many Western countries, there are still many reasons to view Heliogabalus as public chaos and danger.
Grotesque murders and authoritarianism in Rome
From an early age, Heliogabalus became the pontiff of the god El Gabal of his city Emesa (Homs today, Syria), an ancient deity of the time, god of the Sun. The curiosity of this god is that it was carved from a stone in the shape of a penis. It was a declaration of intent when, shortly after his disembarkation in Rome, he decreed the obligatory cult of the phallic statue in an area where the absence of believers of this religion was complete.
The most serious was not the object to be worshiped in itself, but rather in the rituals as an offering. The senators and praetorians were to attend these offenses, without objection. Scenes anything but conventional, especially for the time: the emperor dressed in female costumes and with the pectoral in the air, made up and with a feminine attitude. But that was the least of it.
On the other hand, Heliogabalus killed several people due to his need to constantly have fun. When he organized parties and orgies, he made such a rain of petals fall on his guests that some were buried and suffocated.
The sex regiment
The conduct of the young emperor was as anti-social as it was irregular, and marked by the strangest ways out of boredom at the expense of the well-being of others. He formed a whole paramilitary group to search, track and recruit men with the biggest penises. Roman estates. He wanted well-endowed men for his personal pleasure.
He met Hierocles, a slave from Izmir, and Zotico, a stocky Greek athlete more famous for his sexual talents than for his sporting exploits. He married them both and, far from hiding, he came to publicly acknowledge his happiness alongside these men so that everyone would know, attitudes that were beginning to mock his senators and his own Praetorian Guard. He bragged during the plenary sessions of the physical consequences his lover left him when they practiced sadomasochistic sex (imagining the faces of the participants is downright funny).
The attitude of this young man, the empire depended on him, did not remain in simple sexual attitudes on the private plane. In the same Roman capital frequent the darkest pipes in the whole cityProfessionally practicing prostitution, he built public baths to exhibit the manly virtues of citizens and set up circus performances in the Imperial Palace itself.
All of this exceptionality and socio-political chaos resulted in those who helped him rise to power in a corrupt way through the plot, doing the same with the assassin Heliogabalus.
Did Heliogabalus have a mental imbalance?
This grotesque emperor’s gender identity or sexual orientation should in no way be confused with his tendency to attack the well-being of others. It’s very relevant identify the context in which Heliogabalus was appointed head of the Roman Empire, At the age of 14, while still thinking about playing ball with friends.
Adolescence, that stage of life when you begin to define your personality, tastes and sexual orientation, was troubled by her grandmother’s illusions of grandeur, by the excess of power implied by being emperor of Rome and by the perverse nature of politics this time they caused an emotional imbalance in Heliogabalus. Everything indicates that Heliogabalus had a mental disorder, although this was not related to being transsexual or being attracted to men.