Friday, February 23, 2018

Elagabalus, 3rd century Roman emperor: A eunuch?

Was the Roman emperor Elagabalus castrated?

His full name was Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (born 204 CE, ruled 218-222 CE). He was better known as Elagabalus or by a spiritualized version of that name, Heliogabalus, helios being Greek for "sun." He was a sun-worshipper who participated in the taurobolium and possibly was castrated or infibulated (genitally pierced). His goal was to unite all Roman religions, but this was not achieved during his reign that lasted merely three years and nine months.

The 12-century Michael Glycas said that the emperor asked surgeons to castrate his husband Hierocles and construct female genitalia for him, while the 12-century John Zonaras said that the emperor requested such a surgery for himself. (Lascaratos and Kostakopoulos, p. 234)

Regarding his possible castration, Georges Duviquet wrote: “Il alla agiter sa tête avec les prêtres châtrés de Cybèle, se liant comme eux les parties génitales, observant toutes leurs coutumes; puis il emporta, our le déposer dans le temple de son dieu, leur trésor sacré.” (Duviquet, p. 51) An endnote to this comment added: “Genitalia devinxit. Saumaise et Gruter proposent defixit pris dans le sens d’enlever, arracher. On a vu dans Aurélius Victor qu’Héliogabale, s’étant coupé les parties génitales, abscissis genitalibus, se consacra à la Mère des dieux.” (Duviquet, p. 286) Duviquet included a diagram of a statue that shows Heliogabalus with intact genitalia. (Duviquet, p 55)

Sources

"Operations on Hermaphrodites and Castration in Byzantine Times (324-1453 AD)." John Lascaratos and Athanastos Kostakopoulos. Urologia Internationalis 1997; 58:232-235.

Georges Duviquet. Héliogabale. Paris: Société du Mercure de France, 1903.

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