Wednesday, July 27, 2022

The Emperor's Gender: Cassius Dio on Elegabalus, Roman History 80.14.3-4

Et in iure quidem reddendo, aliquatenus vir esse videbatur; in aliis tamen rebus, & opere & modulatione vocis, muliebrem affectabat mollitiem.] Inter alia enim saltabat, non in orchestra solum, verum etiam quodammodo dum incederet, faceret sacrificia, salutaretur, & contionem haberet. Postremo, ut redeam unde digressus sum, nupsit etiam, et uxor et domina et Augusta appellabatur; tractabat lanam, reticulum aliquando gestabat, oculosque sublinebat, cerussaque vultum et anchusa pingebat.   

ὅτι ἐν τῷ δικάζειν τινὰ ἀνήρ πως εἶναι ἐδόκει, ἐν δὲ δὴ τοῖς ἄλλοις τῷ ἔργῳ καὶ τῷ σχήματι τῆς φωνῆς ὡραΐζετο. τά τε γὰρ ἄλλα καὶ ὠρχεῖτο, οὔτι 3 γε ἐν ὀρχήστρᾳ μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐμβαδίζων τρόπον τινὰ καὶ θύων ἀσπαζόμενός τε καὶ δημηγορῶν. καὶ τέλος, ἵν᾽ ἤδη ἐπὶ τὸν ἐξ ἀρχῆς λόγον ἐπανέλθω, καὶ ἐγήματο, γυνή τε καὶ δέσποινα βασιλίς τε ὠνομάζετο, καὶ ἠριούργει, κεκρύφαλόν τε ἔστιν ὅτε ἐφόρει, καὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ἐνηλείφετο, ψιμυθίῳ τε καὶ ἐγχούσῃ ἐχρίετο,

 --Cassius Dio, Roman History 80.14.3-4; Translated into Latin by Hermann Samuel Reimarus, 1753 

At court, [Elegabalus / Bassiana] kept their appearance as a man, but everywhere else they kept the appearance and voice of a woman. And they danced all the time in public, not just on stage, but also wherever they walked, when they made sacrifices and when they were holding court. Finally, to circle back to my original point, they got married as a bride, and was called “wife,” “milady,” and “Queen.” They spun wool, wore a veil, wore eyeliner, makeup, and anklets.



Name:  Lucius Cassius Dio

Date:  155 – 235 CE

Works:  Roman History*



Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



 Cassius Dio was a Roman statesman born in Nicaea, Bithynia who wrote an 80 volume work on Roman history that spanned from Aeneas’ flight from Troy to the rise of the emperor Severus Alexander. Although much of his history is lost, the fragments that we do have show rare insight into the Roman world.


ARCHAIC: (through 6th c. BCE); GOLDEN AGE: (5th - 4th c. BCE); HELLENISTIC: (4th c. BCE - 1st c. BCE); ROMAN: (1st c. BCE - 4th c. CE); POST CONSTANTINOPLE: (4th c. CE - 8th c. CE); BYZANTINE: (post 8th c CE)

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