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"I quote in elegiacs all the crimes of Heliogabalus" sang a certain Modern Major General in 1879; whereas John Stuart Hay in 1911 warned us in his `The Amazing Emperor Heliogabalus' that the Vita Heliogabali "is written in Latin, and has never been translated into English, to the writer's knowledge, nor has he any intention of undertaking the work at this present or any other time, as he has no desire to land himself, with the printers and publishers, in the dock at the Old Bailey, in an unenviable, if not an invidious and notorious position".

The author of this book has spent many years carrying out a forensic investigation into the life and crimes of Elagabalus (as he is currently known to the authorities), alias Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, alias Varius Avitus Bassianus, and has determined that, while offending the Senate and People of Rome sufficiently to warrant the `gruesome' massacre of himself and his courtiers, it was for offending their religious and social proprieties, rather than for any moral lapses that he met his fate.

The Contents are -
P001: Introduction
P009: The boy on the throne
P044. The child priest from Emesa
P061: The invincible priest-emperor
P092: The rejected ruler
P123: The evil tyrant
P148: The decadent emperor
P180: The modern prince
P215: Epilogue
P219-P276; Appendices, Notes, bibliography & index

The first chapter details the history of the life and reign of Elagabalus; the second examines the Syrian cult of Elagabal, from which Elagabalus took his name, and its introduction to Rome by Elagabalus; the third looks at the images of the emperor propagated by his administration; the fourth looks at the Ancient literary sources and their hatchet-job on the now-discredited emperor; and the following chapters deal with his image in history and the arts, along with the development of the modern study of ancient history in the subsequent centuries. Even in the 19th century, serious historians (when they paid him any attention at all) were still taking the ancient sources at face value, and not subjecting them to full analysis. Today, although the sources are now better understood, allowing the author to give us a reasonable view of the events of the reign of Elagabalus, the emperor has also become a modern artistic and sub-cultural icon.

Dr John D. Grainger, a historian of the Hellenistic period, had a rant in one of his prefaces against publishers who keep churning out biographies of historically insignificant Roman emperors (he had Nero in mind at the time), simply because there were lots of historical sources, and therefore research was so easy that even journalists could write a book about them; whereas major historical figures such as Antiochus the Great had no studies, and no publisher was even interested in commissioning one. The question now is whether you are interested in the subject of Elagabalus to want to read a book about him. I remember reading a novel by Alfred Duggan many years ago on Elagabalus (Family Favourites), which is discussed here - though the Dutch author thinks Duggan is an Argentinian writer - and I knew nothing else about him. While the life and reign of Elagabalus is not particularly interesting (though this is a well-written and researched book), and his later appearances in art and literature are of no historical importance, the discussion of the development of modern historical research was extremely interesting, especially the way anti-semitism became almost institutionalised in 19th century historical studies, particularly in Imperial Germany. The comparison of the Cambridge Ancient History for 1939 and 2005 shows the sea-change in the academic view of `foreign' cults. Elagabalus was deposed for trying to change the classical Roman pantheon (amongst other things), and this view had carried forward to the 19th century, as each successive imperial power adopted Rome as its patron.

Anyway, this book is an exhaustive and well written account of the life and reign of Elagabalus, and an account of his subsequent literary fate. There is nothing prurient or salacious in the narrative; it is an academic study that took many years of research to compile. It is readable and interesting, but only if you are really interested in the subject.

Further reading:
Family Favourites :
Child of the Sun
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on 18 April 2016
An amazing survey about the most infamous roman emperor of them all. if u thought that title belonged to caligula or nero or even commodus u are mistaken.
those emperors maybe are more well known to the public but elagabalus aka heliogabalus aka bassianus the decadent boy emperor who insulted rome like no one else IS WAY ABOVE ALL OTHER CRAZY MAD EMPERORS ROME EVER HAD.
To get a clue....that syrian boy priest dared not only to defy jupiter like caligula did but he went further to decrease the leader of the gods and to replace him with his own elagabal black stone emesa god of the orient. caligula never dared to do that.
to get another clue....that decadent boy who dressed like a woman and who publicly married a despicaple charioter named hierocles stating he loved to be hieroclre's....WIFE....dared to prostitute himself in the imperial palace while caligula never did that as he only ordered the senators wife to prostitute in the palace.
that decadent boy who also wanted to cut off his genitals and to have a vagina instead dared to insult rome BY MARRYING THE CHIEF OF THE VESTAL VIRGINS which was an unthinkable crime for rome. just to let u know even NERO only slept with a lower ranking vestal virgin.....he never dared to touch the WOMAN HIGH PRIEST.
I really can't understand a review here telling us he found no crimes at al in this book. this dude propably read another book.....LOL

THIS BOOK HAS IT ALL.

And what's amazing is that it took almost 4 years before finally the praetorians got rid of this sick person who poluted rome for all those years due to the luck of being caracalla's relative and thus his successor in 218 ad.
so if u think u read it all with caligula's and nero's crimes wait until u read this book which will make u throw up of the atrocities this mad emperor did.
He appointed every unworthy slave and common man in important positions and governors of provinces just because they were sexually big in size.
his crimes are neverending as he tried to poison his cousin and successor alexander severus simply cause he was not mad like him and refused to take part in his crime orgies.
unfortunately for him this was the final straw for the soldiers who disgusted with their mad emperor they did what they should have done 4 years ago and in 222 AD they slaughtered elagabalus with his mother who supported him in favor of his couin alexander and his mother mammaia who became the next rome rulers.

THE PROOF OF HOW INSANE ELAGABALUS AND HOW WAS HATED BY THE PEOPLE COMES AFTER HIS DEATH.

Upon the boy's death the soldiers with the mob of rome disgusted by him and now freely to express their feelings draged his body and tried tro throw it in a sewer and when this was not possible they threw the body to the tiber.

NO OTHER ROMAN EMPEROR HAD SUCH FATE.........NOT CALIGULA NOT NERO.

IF U ASK MOST PEOPLE THEY WILL TELL YOU CALIGULA AND NERO WERE THE MOST INFAMOUS BAD EMPERORS...

THEY DIDN'T KNEW ABOUT ELAGABALUS.
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on 24 November 2013
Very well researched and written in a style which engages the interest of the ordinary reader as well as the learned academic.
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on 20 December 2014
The best modern biography / appreciation, or should I say attempt to understand this most denigrated of Roman emperors.
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on 3 June 2013
The Crimes of Elagabalus ? What crimes? Effeminancy,ritual slaughter of beasts,worship of a black stone,the love of big dicks and generally being an annoying little boy ? I'm still waiting to find out.The most interesting thing about this book is the pictures in the middle and the bust of Elagabalus on the dust cover. It constantly repeats itself which makes me think that either there wasn't much written about Elagabalus or the author wanted to concentrate on the romantic religious twaddle written by other authors and use that to fill a book of 276 pages. Stay well away if you want a juicy account of Rome's Decadent Boy Emperor.
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on 19 January 2014
From previous experience of this period and the write up from other readers should be a riveting read. Good condition well pleased
11 comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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