On March 11th 222, the emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus was assassinated.
Elagabalus, as he is better known, was only 18 years old, but he had already reigned for almost four years.
Born Sextus Varius Avitus Bassianus, he came from a prominent Arab family in Emesa (Homs), where, from an early age, he served as the high priest of the sun god Elagabal. His short reign became infamous for its sex scandals and religious controversy. According to Edward Gibbon, Elagabalus 'abandoned himself to the grossest pleasures with ungoverned fury' (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1776).
His disregard for Roman religious traditions and sexual taboos, estranged the Senate and the Praetorian Guard. It was members of the latter who carried out the assassination, dumping the body in the river Tiber.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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