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Heliogabalus may refer to:

  • The sun god Heliogabalus, the patron god of Emesa (modern Homs) in the Roman province of Syria.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

HELIOGABALUS (ELAGABALUS), Roman emperor (A.D. 218-222), was born at Emesa about 205. His real name was Varius Avitus. On the murder of Caracalla (217), Julia Maesa, Varius's grandmother and Caracalla's aunt, left Rome and retired to Emesa, accompanied by her grandsons (Varius and Alexander Severus). Varius, though still only a boy, was appointed high priest of the Syrian sun-god Elagabalus, one of the chief seats of whose worship was Emesa (Horns). His beauty, and the splendid ceremonials at which he presided, made him a great favourite with the troops stationed in that part of Syria, and Maesa increased his popularity by spreading reports that he was in reality the illegitimate son of Caracalla. Macrinus, the successor and instigator of the murder of Caracalla, was very unpopular with the army; an insurrection was easily set on foot, and on the 16th of May 218 Varius was proclaimed emperor as Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. The troops sent to quell the revolt went over to him, and Macrinus was defeated near Antioch on the 8th of June. Heliogabalus was at once recognized by the senate as emperor. After spending the winter in Nicomedia, he proceeded in 219 to Rome, where he made it his business to exalt the deity whose priest he was and whose name he assumed. The Syrian god was proclaimed the chief deity in Rome, and all other gods his servants; splendid ceremonies in his honour were celebrated, at which Heliogabalus danced in public, and it was believed that secret rites accompanied by human sacrifice were performed in his honour. In addition to these affronts upon the state religion, he insulted the intelligence of the community by horseplay of the wildest description and by childish practical joking. The shameless profligacy of the emperor's life was such as to shock even a Roman public. His popularity with the army declined, and Maesa, perceiving that the soldiers were in favour of Alexander Severus, persuaded Heliogabalus to raise his cousin to the dignity of Caesar (221), a step of which he soon repented. An attempt to murder Alexander was frustrated by the watchful Maesa. Another attempt in 222 produced a mutiny among the praetorians, in which Heliogabalus and his mother Soemias (Soaemias) were slain (probably in the first half of March).


- Life by Aelius Lampridius in Scriptores historiae Augustae; Herodian v. 3-8; Dio Cassius lxxviii. 30 sqq., lxxix. 1-21; monograph by G. Duviquet, Heliogabale (1903), containing a translation of the various accounts of Heliogabalus in Greek and Latin authors, notes, bibliography and illustrations; O. F. Butler, Studies in the Life of Heliogabalus (New York, 1908); Gibbon, Decline and Fall, ch. 6; H. Schiller, Geschichte der reimischen Kaiserzeit, pt. ii. (1883), p. 759 ff. On the Syrian god see F. Cumont in PaulyWissowa's Realencyclopddie, v. pt. ii. (1905).

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



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Bust of Heliogabalus

Alternative spellings

  • Elagabalus


From a Latinized form of the Semitic deity El-Gabal, a manifestation of the Semitic deity Ēl.


  • (RP) IPA: /ˌhiː.li.əʊˈgæb.ə.ləs/
  • (US) IPA: /ˌhiː.li.oʊˈgæb.ə.ləs/
  •  Audio (US)help, file

Proper noun




  1. A Roman emperor of the Severan dynasty who reigned from 218 to 222. He was known for perverse and decadent behavior with regard especially to sex, religion, and food.


  • 1689John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book II, ch xxvii
    But yet I think nobody, could he be sure that the soul of Heliogabalus were in one of his hogs, would yet say that hog were a man or Heliogabalus.
  • 1726Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels, Part III, ch viii
    I spent five days in conversing with many others of the ancient learned. I saw most of the first Roman emperors. I prevailed on the governor to call up Heliogabalus's cooks to dress us a dinner, but they could not show us much of their skill, for want of materials.
  • 1749Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, Book I ch i
    How pleased, therefore, will the reader be to find that we have, in the following work, adhered closely to one of the highest principles of the best cook which the present age, or perhaps that of Heliogabalus, hath produced. This great man, as is well known to all lovers of polite eating, begins at first by setting plain things before his hungry guests, rising afterwards by degrees as their stomachs may be supposed to decrease, to the very quintessence of sauce and spices.
  • 1880William S. Gilbert, The Pirates of Penzance, Act i
    I quote in elegaics all the crimes of Heliogabalus,

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