HELIOGABALUS (ELAGABALUS), Roman emperor (A.D.
Heliogabalus was at once recognized by the senate as emperor.
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.
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.
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).
Duviquet, Heliogabale (1903), containing a translation of the various accounts of Heliogabalus in Greek and Latin authors, notes, bibliography and illustrations; O.
Butler, Studies in the Life of Heliogabalus (New York, 1908); Gibbon, Decline and Fall, ch.
Little is known of his personal history, except that he lived at Emmaus, and that he went on an embassy to the emperor Heliogabalus to ask for the restoration of the town, which had fallen into ruins.
His original name was Bassianus, but he changed it in 221 when his grandmother, Maesa, persuaded the emperor Heliogabalus to adopt his cousin as successor and create him Caesar.
In the next year, on the I I th of March, Heliogabalus was murdered, and Alexander was proclaimed emperor by the Praetorians and accepted by the senate.
Ancient Emesa, in the district of Apamea, was a very old Syrian city, devoted to the worship of Baal, the sun god, of whose great temple the emperor Heliogabalus was originally a priest (A.D.
He carefully absented himself from court during the reign of Heliogabalus, but under his successor Alexander Severus, was appointed supreme commander of the Roman armies.
Heliogabalus banished him from Rome, but on the accession of Alexander (222) he was reinstated, and finally became the emperor's chief adviser and praefectus praetorio.
His curtailment of the privileges granted to the praetorian guard by Heliogabalus provoked their enmity, and he narrowly escaped their vengeance; ultimately, in 228, he was murdered in the palace, in the course of a riot between the soldiers and the mob.