Common name of the Roman emperor who ruled from A.D. 218 to 222. Born Varius Avitus Bassianus in the Syrian city of Emesa, Elagabalus was trained from an early age to be a priest of the sun god Elagabal. Distantly related to the Empress Julia Domna, several deaths and the scheming of his grandmother Julia Maesa were enough to bring him to the throne at the age of fourteen.
His reign was short and reportedly filled with excesses of every kind. He was reputed to have been a crossdresser and an aspiring transsexual. Also common are stories that he disguised himself as a prostitute and worked simply for the enjoyment of it. He promoted Eastern religious practices over Roman ones and even went so far as to choose a Vestal virgin for his bride.
As Elagabalus' reign wore on Rome slipped more and more into disorder. His own grandmother eventually turned against him and began quietly grooming his cousin Severus Alexander for the throne. The final straw may have been when Elagabalus caught wind of this and attempted to have his rival killed. The plot failed and Elagabalus was left with little respect and few supporters. On the eleventh of March, A.D. 222, Elagabalus and his mother were killed by the Preatorian guard. The bodies were decapitated and dragged through the streets of Rome, and eventually dumped into the Tiber.
Elagabalus is also known by the names Heliogabalus and Antoninus.