Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (c. 203 – March 11, 222) was emperor of Rome from AD 218 to 222. Not referred to as Elagabalus until after his death, e was an emperor to whom rule seemed a joke.
No one dared refuse an invitation to dine with the Roman emperor but the best they could hope for was a thoroughly unpleasant evening-and the worst a particularly nasty death. The young emperor devoted his short reign to playing elaborate practical jokes on some of his unfortunate subjects.
One of his greatest joys was to invite the seven fattest men in Rome to dinner. They were seated on air cushions which slaves then punctured, sending the fat men sprawling on the floor. Other guests would be served with artificial food made of glass, marble or ivory. Etiquette compelled them to eat it.
When real food was served, guests were likely to find spiders in the aspic or lions' dung in the pastry. Anyone who dined too well and fell asleep might wake up in a room filled with lions, leopards and bears. If they survived the shock they would discover that the animals were tame.
Elagabalus was fond of animals and often his chariot was pulled by dogs, stags, lions or tigers. However he was equally likely to arrive at a sate function in a wheelbarrow pulled by naked women.
Often he would order his slaves to gather spiders' webs, frogs, scorpions or poisonous snakes which he would send to his courtiers as gifts. On one occasion he had the seemingly pleasant idea of showering his dinner guests with rose petals. He used so many that some of them suffocated. The state coffers were emptied by his extravagances. He would order a magnificent bath to be built, use it once, then have it demolished.
The emperor married and divorced five times and seems to have been more interested in men than women. Some historians claim he married two men, one in a public ceremony, as well as prostituting himself to any men who were interested. He was also said to have a long term relationship a male slave called Hierocles and delighted in being called, the lover, wife and queen of Hierocles, suggesting he was transgender. Adding to this suspicion is the allegation that he offered a vast sum of money to any physician that could give him female genitalia.
Whatever the truth of his sexual orientation and identity, Rome did not approve of his high living, nor did it share his bizarre sense of humour. Finally, his own Praetorian guard murdered him on the orders of his grandmother, and his body bundled into the Tiber. He was just 17.