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Museum Declares Roman Emperor was Transgender, Will Use Female Pronouns

The museum's decision relies on the records of Cassius Dio, who may have been trying to ruin Elagabalus's reputation

Museum Declares Roman Emperor was Transgender, Will Use Female Pronouns

A museum in the United Kingdom has announced that a Roman Emperor was transgender and will now be referred to by female pronouns.

The North Hertfordshire Museum asserts that, according to its research and classical texts, it has determined Elagabalus asked to be called “lady.”

Elagabalus took power at the age of 14 and reigned from 218 to 222 A.D.

The museum will use female pronouns to refer to Elagabalus on information placards – a decision it says “in retrospect, is appropriate.”

“The museum consults the LGBT charity Stonewall and the LGBT wing of the trade union Unison on best practice for its displays, to ensure that ‘our displays, publicity and talks are as up-to-date and inclusive as possible,’” reports The Telegraph.

The museum has questioned Elagabus’ gender identity for some time. 

“North Herts Museum has one coin of Elagabalus, which we periodically put on display as it is one of a few LGBTQ+ items we have in our collection,” said Keith Hoskins, executive member for Enterprise and Arts at North Herts Council, in a statement in August, per The Art Newspaper. “We try to be sensitive to identifying pronouns for people in the past, as we are for people in the present, it is only polite and respectful. We know that Elagabalus identified as a woman and was explicit about which pronouns to use, which shows that pronouns are not a new thing.”

Hoskins went on to say that translations of writings from Cassius Dio indicate Elagabalus had a preference for female pronouns.

Other reports have suggested Elagabalus married five different women, had several long-term relationships with men including an athlete named Aurelius Zoticus, worked as a prostitute, and searched for a doctor that could give him a vagina, per AV Club.

According to The Daily Mail, Dio’s records may not be reliable as they could have been a form of character assassination. Dio served emperor Severus Alexander, who took power after Elagabalus was assassinated at the age of 18.

Elagabalus also had a reputation for brutality and tyranny. 

According to the outlet:

At one feast, he had several of his guests lashed to a water-wheel, which turned slowly and drowned them as their horrified fellow diners looked on. In another extraordinarily sadistic prank he released dozens of leopards and lions among his guests once they had finished eating. 

On one occasion, he let poisonous snakes loose among the crowds at the gladiatorial games, causing widespread death and injury. And in still another example of his brutality, he threw gold and silver from a high tower, and watched as a mob of citizens fought to grab them, with many dying in the crush.

Elagabalus was also known to dress entirely in precious silks and draped himself with gems. The boy emperor also apparently dreamt of surrounding himself with a new Roman senate composed entirely of women. 

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