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“ ...a nice lad once..but then he wanted a sex change and become a Pharoah of Rome. Boys of his age usually prefer to spend all day squeezing spots and farting at family gatherings. That is what I did at his age...”
The Roman Empire was, at least by our standards, a civilization where the definition of 'raging sex pervert' had little or no meaning. But even in Rome there was a limit and it was the Roman Emperor Elagabalus (full name : Darren Antoninius Elagabalus Aurelius) who found it. Can you imagine handing over one of the greatest empires to a 17 year old kid? Ok, well in the era of Facebook and Google that is precisely what has happened. So if you can imagine Mark Zuckerberg (without any known bedroom kinks) in a toga, you would come up with Elagabalus.
Who's Your Daddy ?
Elagabalus ( or 'Heliogabalus' as he is also known as the first emperor to cultivate a sun tan from lounging around the imperial swimming pool) was only emperor for four years but like his imperial idol Caligula, Elagabalus packed in a lot of weirdness and out and out depravity before he was killed in 222 AD at the age of just 17.
He was born in 205 to Julia 'Hot or Cold ?' Samosa and a father listed by Rome Social Services as 'A.Gitus '. Later historians gave Elagabalus's supposed father the name Lividus Bassianus but now it is believed that actually 'Gitus' was really Caracalla - later to become the first Chav Roman Emperor. Julia Samosa who was said to have 'loose morals' - and even looser clothes which she could shed in one go - was exiled to Syria for 'allowing' her crude chav cousin Caracalla gain carnal knowledge of her intimate bits. The young Elagabalus was taken away from his mother and remained in Rome with his great aunt Julia Dominatrix . The young imperial prince was even brought along to Britannia in 210 when Emperor Septimius Severus wanted to play happy families near Hadrian's Wall.
Small Town Weird Boy
Following the death of Septimius Severus - Elagabalus's 'father' Caracalla became the new emperor. However he made no attempt to make his 'boy' an imperial heir and decided to send the urchin off to Syria to live with his mother Julia Samosa and grandmother Julia Miasma . They were living in Emesa in a temple dedicated to a former wrestler turned immobile actor called The Rock or Sol Invictus - the piss coloured beer served with a slice of ham in the bottle . Up until then no one knew what he was saying - the face didn't move much and only a few facial ticks could be picked up. It was also heard to say in the dark ' My Name is Dwayne. Where the WWF am I ? '
However no one could understood much else spoken by The Rock so his worthiness as an oracle and religious symbol seemed questionable. However the young Elagabalus said he had the 'divine guidance' to understand every word uttered by his new friend . Even the gibberish 'wrestlerish' phrases as well.Elagabalus then started to translate the strange utterances of The Rock - and all of it seemed very profound once you got past Eh...Yo...Is it my line time now ? . He seemed to know a lot about wrestling , 'pumping iron' and 'Hollywood' - a strange place the Emesans thought had to be the heavens of the gods as it sounded so implausible. All this talk about Horseless chariots that could take you places, plastic surgery and daytime television - was this all for real ?
However , news of The Rock's 'Magic Moments' convinced the less sophisticated to queue up outside the temple to deposit gold teeth, silver pen sets, body bracelets and unwanted birthday presents to secure good fortune and to win the annual Syrian Lotto. Everyone seemed to be pleased by this arrangement and Elagabalus's reputation for being 'The Precocious One' grew quickly.
Death of Emperor Chav
The citizens of Emesa then received reports that their emperor Caracalla was planning to stay in the city to 'sort out' a few problems and a few people as well. Scared of their erratic emperor and his greedy friends - the people crowded around the temple and asked Elagabalus and The Rock to save them.
..Er....er....you want me to do something besides posing like this...?
Luckily for both their reputations - news was received that Caracalla had been killed and that there was a new emperor called Macrinus to deal with. However Elagabalus's grandmother didn't trust the new man in charge. She reasoned - a new Emperor wouldn't lose much time getting rid of the old imperial family. Then Julia Miasma and Julia Samosa told Elagabalus that Caracalla was his father and that it was his duty to kill Macrinus as soon as possible.
A New Chav Leader Yawns
Now made aware of the situation , the dutiful Elagabalus had his father's crow picked body sent to Emesa for a celebration funeral pyre and barbecue (a common practice in the East where wood was scarce). By chance the' family' legion - The old IV (the Extra Hard Bastards) - were also in Emesa and they watched the sacred burial rituals .
As the young Elagabalus came out of the temple with The Rock - he piously emptied a can of petrol on his late father's body and throw a cigarette dog end onto the pyre . The smell of burning chav and wood filled the temple sanctuary whilst Caracalla's former legion looked guiltily at their sandals and mumbled a lot - ashamed for their part in the death of the former Emperor.
This was just the opportunity that Julia Miasma and Julia Samosa were looking for . They announced that Rome's true emperor was Elagabalus and that Marcinus 'The New Soul Groover' was a rebel and should be overthrown without further delay. The soldiers agreed and hoisted Elagabalus on their shields to celebrate his new imperial dignity.
Dance of Death Off
The news of the rebellion reached Macrinus as he was trying out some dance moves on the Roman-Parthian border in Armenia. He moved towards Emesa with his hippest legion and challenged Elagabalus to a 'death dance off'. It was going to be a battle of the Syrian Salsa Shakers V The Macrina Soulsters but early on Macrinus let his side down when he flunked his coolest funk moves. When he then said 'I am Going to Nail this Groove Good' - a javelin was thrown from the crowd and skewered Macrinus to the floor. Now the Romans had only one emperor to choose from and Elagabalus looked...well cool, chavvy and young.
There's a New Sod In Town
Once all remaining opponents had been removed - Elagabalus with his family and The Rock moved to Rome to take up the fruits of er..killing their predecessor. Elagabalus deposited The Rock into a spare temple and announced that from now on - only his friend was worthy of direct worship and the rest of the Roman pantheon were a waste of good marble and precious bronze. Anyone who wanted to argue with the emperor - could talk to his soldiers at their own risk of life , limb and health insurance.
As the new boy town - Elagabalus soon got the imperial palace the way he wanted it. It had a room or 'The Depravity Den ' where only he and a few select friends could hang out together - snorting beer , laughing their heads off hysterically and setting fire to their own farts as entertainment. It also meant Elagabalus could have complete privacy from his mother Julia Samosa and other curious family members as they ran the Roman Empire on his behalf.
When Chavi Met Zaavi
At first Elagabalus seemed to be ok - if a bit of a chav like his dad. His family wanted him to settle down and find an innocent Roman bride. This wasn't easy - Rome was a city of easy virtue - so Elagabalus hit upon a solution. He would marry a Vestal Virgin.
His choice fell upon the innocent looking Emmanuella 'Emmy' Rossum-Blossom who had lived with the Vestals since the age of seven. Though they were officially said to be looking after the sacred eternal flame inside the temple - the more lewd members of Rome Society suggested the women were sitting around smoking dope all day long and then saying 'The Gods Have Spoken To Us'.
Ignoring the protests of Rome's pagan religious leaders about the sacrilege of his actions - Elagabalus went ahead and married Emmy the Vestal Virgin - now to rebranded as Emmy Zaavi in honour of a beer favoured by Rome's chavs . The Vestal Virgins were also renamed as the 'Vestals of Zaavi' - in honour of the temple's new sponsors - Sol Invictus-Zaavi Beer. A huge wedding party was held and Rome had its biggest knees up since Nero set fire to the city two centuries earlier.
But this wouldn't be Rome without some conspicuous casual cruelty. Elagabalus decided to separate the his friends into 'The Ins' and 'The Outs'. The latter were seated in what appeared to be an emptied out swimming pool. They thought it was a huge joke until the emperor decreed that he was try out a new Roman method of killing people : Drowning in Flower Petals. Before his luckless ex-mates could get off their couches - forty tonnes of flower petals were dumped on their heads by an ingenious pumping device . As they struggled to get out - Elagabalus called them 'hideous green fly' and told his guards to spray the 'insects' with poison.
Wall To Wall Depravity
The emperor's removal of his unwanted friends was actually celebrated by many - they thought this meant the emperor was just getting rid of parasites who had helped themselves lavishly to the imperial purse. But Elagabalus realised that this wouldn't get him onto the Bad Emperor's List - so he embarked on some good old fashioned killer orgies to help Rome's tabloid press sell some mucky scrolls.
They began to fill reams of paper with stories about parties where there was naked 'horsey horsey' riding around the palace and that the emperor was 'The Hercules of the Bed Chamber' whose sexual appetite was greater than anyone since the days of Messalina . But like any young lad - Elagabalus quickly became bored and despite his supposed prowess - Empress Emmy Zaavi remained childless. Soon he refused to sleep with her and stayed up all night playing Slave Playstation on-line with other sick saddos. Unwilling to stay in the 'Baggage Unclaimed' room of life' - Emmy Zaavi spent more time at the Temple of Sol Invictus to worship The Rock at bit more and to provide a steady stream of body lotion to keep his torso 'glistening in the sun'.
Elagabalus eventually got bored with winning games all the time so he decided to look for more wives. They were all called Julia but once again there was no sign of an imperial heir. These marital experiences then seemed to have convinced the emperor that if he was going to have a son - he would have to do it all himself. Elagabalus just needed to find the right male partner and then came upon the ideal candidate who worked weekends at the Circus Maximus.
A Chariot Racer's Bitch
The object of Elagabalus's affections was Ben ('Do You Really Want to Hur Me') Nevis from Caledonia . A hairy Pict who had once been a golf caddy for emperor Septimius Severus , Nevis had retrained as a charioteer and soon began to win races for the Tartan Woad faction at the Circus Maximus. With a red matted hair, scraggy beard and a tattoo on his head that spelt out in Ogham script Pictland For Ever , 'Scabby Ben' ( as he was also called) was hardly an Ancient World 'nail'em up' pretty boy. And it was arguable if it was him or the horses that smelt the worse the after every race.
But for Elagabalus - Ben was ideal Barbaric Rough - and the emperor wanted to have the man's babies. The charioteer agreed to become 'the husband' and Elagabalus thought this was a modest request to ask from the Divine Sol so he went to The Rock's temple to get a timely transsexual transformation.
Though he was a man of many parts (except acting) - The Rock could only think in eunuchs at this stage . But Elagabalus remembered The Rock talking about this magical place 'Hollywood' where Women could be Men, Men could be Women and that Michael Jackson was stuck in sexual no man's land.
“Let me say the magic words my dear Emperor. Casting Call. It should turn up something..or other. ”
I'm A Sweet Transvestite , A Sybarite From Sy-ria Ah Ha Oh Yeah !
News that Elagabalus was hosting a sort of 'Roman Horror Show' got round the Empire and that only transvestites, transsexuals, trainspotters and transformers need to come - narrowed the field. Elagabalus wanted to make it into a big event in the belief that somehow he would be changed into a 'Fe-Male' and so practised his song and dance for the show and wore women's underwear to get him in right spirit for his sexual ambition.
However now his grand mother Julia Miasma took alarm. Annoyed that Julia Samosa was no help in controlling her son - she sent a letter to her younger daughter Julia Mammamia . She was quietly living on island off Greece with her swotty and studious son Severus Alexander. Miasma 'requested' her daughter and grandson come to Rome to enjoy life in Rome - her request was 'mailed' with a cohort of Praetorian Guards . She wanted 'Sevvy Alexander' to be a non-sadistic friend for Elagabalus. Afraid to disobey her mother , Julia Mammamia and Severus Alexander moved to the Imperial capital and took up lodgings in the Palatine palace.
Catamite A Go-Go!
Despite a lot of singing and erotic writhings - Elagabalus's remained very much a man. Now he believed the god he had worshipped - Sol Invictus - a.k.a. - The Rock - had been 'taking the Caligula' about its supposed powers. In anger , Elagabalus fired his friend and took over the temple of Sol Invictus for himself. Now he was 'God Incarnal' (i.e. a God in Heat) - Elagabalus decreed that everyone would now have to worship him as a Living , All Dancing Deity.
Take Him To The River
By now the average Roman-in-the-Forum had enough of the Prancing Princeps and supported a rebellion of troops in the capital to overthrow Elagabalus and his strange friends. They stormed the Palatine Palace and killed the emperor in his dressing room as he was about to go out on stage in a final attempt to under go a miraculous sex change. The soldiers also sought out his mother Julia Samosa for 'breeding the degenerate' and killed her too. Both bodies were then dragged through the streets and dumped in the Tiber.
Elagabalus's bookish cousin Severus Alexander who had hidden himself in an imperial toilet during the tumult - was proclaimed the new Augustus whilst 'shaking hands with a Christian bishop' (or so the rumour went). For anyone who was associated with the former regime , they were told to 'report' to the loser's dressing room at the Colosseum . This was tired old Roman joke as there wasn't one there - Losers ended up in the lion's cage - with a feline in hungry residence. Elagabalus's memory was damned and his weird wardrobe distributed to the fashion blind poor.
And The Rock ?
The Rock was still packing his bags when he heard of Elagabalus's death. He quickly left the city and disappeared from the pages of recorded rubbish from this era. Later writers say he sailed away with the former Empress Emmy Zaavi to the land of 'Hollywood' and was never heard of again . Well that is a nice happy ending isn't it - I mean 'innit' ?
And the Christians ??
Oh them. Doing a lot of dull stuff. Arguing about whether God came as one bumper edition or in a three part series. Roman authorities were happy for them to get on with it. This was to change later.
Hmmm. I will come back to you on that question.
- Elagabalus's list of perversions certainly trump those practised by the relative amateurs Caligula , Nero and even Commodus. However no one has been inspired to write much about him. Surprising.
- Named after a box of matches, the Vestal Virgins had been guarding their maidenheads and the sacred flame against the attentions of barbarians and Romans alike since 396 BC . However in 218 A.D. the owner of the Vestal Virgin franchise Ricardos Barbatossa Branstonius sold out to Sol Invictus Zaavi in some shady deal. He later got it back when the cult of Sol Invictus Zaavi went bust after the death of Elagabalus.
- The advertisement went like this If You Want To Be Chavi - Drink Zaavi. Sol Invictus Divine Beer.
- Slave Playstation was an ingenious on-line game involving a lot of shouted messages to other players in the city. You used of course real slaves to die in the games arranged this way.
- Lemon Sorbet was once known as Lemon Sybarite as it induced indolence and fornication.
- Catamite is a commercial yeast extract spread for those who like their bread buttered on both sides and on the edges too.
- The Christians had a quiet time with this particular emperor. They perhaps believed that Elagabalus was enroute to join them - though this looks to be a generous view of the Emperor's very strange ways.