Roman emperor Elagabalus gets she/her pronouns by UK museum

23 Nov 2023 02:20pm
Depiction of Roman emperor Elagabalus
Depiction of Roman emperor Elagabalus

Roman emperor Elagabalus will be newly identified with she/her pronouns after United Kingdom’s North Hertfordshire Museum concluded that the leader was a trans woman. This change comes after classical texts claim the emperor once said “Call me not Lord, for I am a Lady".

A museum spokesman told the BBC it was "only polite and respectful to be sensitive to identifying pronouns for people in the past".

The museum has one coin of Elagabalus, which is often displayed amongst other LGBT items in its collection. It said it consulted LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall to ensure "displays, publicity and talks are as up-to-date and inclusive as possible".

The decision to start using female pronouns on Elagabalus was not new as many academicians were at a split over the emperor’s self-identification over the years.

BBC quoted Cambridge University classics professor Dr Shushma Malik, stating that the life of Elagabalus were extremely hostile towards him, and therefore cannot be taken at face value, adding that there was no direct evidence from Elagabalus himself of his own words.

"There are many examples in Roman literature of times where effeminate language and words were used as a way of criticising or weakening a political figure.

"References to Elagabalus wearing makeup, wigs and removing body hair may have been written in order to undermine the unpopular emperor,” he said.

Dr Malik added that whilst Romans were aware of gender fluidity, and there were examples of pronouns being changed in literature, it "was usually used in reference to myth and religion, rather than to describe living people".

Elagabalus, whose real name was Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, was emperor for four years from 218 AD and later was assassinated in 222 AD. For centuries, historians characterised Elagabalus short reign as one defined by decadence and sexual promiscuity.

Elagabalus was married five times, four of them to women and once to a man, BBC reported citing a text by Elagabalus‘ contemporary Cassius Dio. Dio was a senator, writes in his historical chronicles that the emperor was married five times - four times to women, and once to Hiercoles, a former slave and chariot driver.

Meanwhile, Enterprise and Arts at North Herts Council executive member for Keith Hoskins said the texts such as Dio's provide evidence Elagabalus preferred the 'she' pronoun.

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