Elagabalus was a Syrian usurper who became the Roman Emperor at age 14. He was born around the year 204 AD and lived to the age of 18. His birth name was Varius Avitus Bassianus, but later changed his name to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, but he is now known as Elagabalus after the Roman deity. He was born in Syria to Julia Soaemis and Sextus Varius Marcellus. His father was a senator to emperor Caracalla, and his mother was the niece of Julia Domna who was the wife of Septimius Severus, a deceased Roman Emperor.
Emperor Macrinus was becoming increasingly unpopular with his people and is said to have been involved in the assassination of Emperor Caracalla who was served by Elagabalus’ father.
Elagabalus was smuggled into the Legio III Gallia a.k.a the Third Gallic Legion and was proclaimed emperor by the legionaries, and there was nothing Macrinus could do. He wasn’t supported by anyone in the army nor anyone in Rome and managed to flee the camp by shaving his head and beard.
He attempted to cross the Bosporus – the river that separates the Asian part of Turkey from the European part of Turkey, in a vain attempt to make seek refuge in Rome, a city ravaged by fires and flooding. Alas, he was caught and beheaded by Gannys. His nine-year-old son Diadamenianus was captured at Zeagma in Syria and was killed.
Elagabalus’ mother and grandmother, the wealthy Julia Maesa claimed that he was the illegitimate son of Caracalla, and they managed to convince the senate. He took a new name Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, the name of Caracalla (Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus Augustus).
He was the youngest Emperor Rome had ever had. He wasn’t fully recognised as emperor until his arrival in Rome, which was the autumn of 219 AD, as his mother wanted to stay in Syria for the winter.
Despite his hard work, Gannys – the man who beheaded Macrinus, didn’t get to see Elagabalus on the throne as he was seen as a threat. Some say he was a father figure to the boy, others that he was Julia Soaemis’ lover.
When he reached Rome, Elagabalus was officially recognised as emperor. The senators hoped that his reign would be significantly more stable after the turbulent reigns of Caracalla and Macrinus. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, and his reign was one of the most chaotic reigns Rome would ever see.
After taking over power, his actions were extremely outrageous. He planned to get rid of all the Roman gods and place Elagabal – the Syrian sun god in his place. He had a temple built on the Palatine Hill in the worship of his new religion.
His behaviour became increasingly scandalous as time went by. He was never married nor had any children, although he names his cousin Severus Alexander a.k.a Alexanus. He had many affairs involving both men and women.
He spent a fortune to throw parties all the time, and banquets and dancing were the main events. At one specific party, he was said to have made his guests eat live parrots for his own amusement, he also would put lions in people’s’ room, so that when they went to bed they would be mauled to death.
He also gives his guest wax and stone food while he was given the real food. He started a lottery — and as prizes he would give slaves and houses, but he would get bored by being generous and gave recipients bees and flies and dead dogs. He would also fire the tickets from catapults and would often put snakes into the crowds.
There were many uprisings, and as his four-year reign came to a close his cousin and heir Severus Alexander/Alexanus were becoming more of a threat. He planned his assassination, and his mother stood by him, but his aunt and grandmother supported Alexanus.
On the 11th March 222 AD, Elagabalus sent orders to the Praetorian Guard to kill Alexanus, but they refused and claimed to support Alexanus. They were most likely bribed by Julia Maesa.
Two days later Elagabalus and his mother visited the Praetorian Camp, and were beheaded. Their bodies were then paraded through the streets of Rome before being dumped in the Rive Tiber.
Severus Alexander was crowned emperor until 235 AD when he too was assassinated.