Thursday, July 28, 2022

Hierocles, Husband to an Empress, Cassius Dio, Roman History, 80.15.1-3

Content Warning: Homophobic Slur, Slavery

It is important to note that, like the Hadrian/Antinous, Domitian/Earinus, Caracalla/Festus, Nero/Sporus and other Imperial couples, the disparity in social classes between the two lovers may negate the consent of the relationship and should not be romanticized in modern times. 

ὁ δὲ δὴ ἀνὴρ αὐτῆς Ἱεροκλῆς ἦν, Καρικὸν ἀνδράποδον, Γορδίου ποτὲ παιδικὰ γενόμενον, παρ᾽ οὗ καὶ ἁρματηλατεῖν ἔμαθεν. κἀκ τούτου καὶ παραδοξότατα αὐτῷ ἠρέσθη. ἐν γάρ τοι ἱπποδρομίᾳ τινὶ ἐκπεσὼν τοῦ ἅρματος κατ᾽ αὐτὴν τὴν τοῦ Σαρδαναπάλλου* ἕδραν τό τε κράνος ἐν τῇ πτώσει ἀπέρριψε, καὶ ἐκφανεὶς αὐτῷ ῾λειογένειος δ᾽ ἔτι ἦν καὶ κόμῃ ξανθῇ ἐκεκόσμητὀ ἀνηρπάσθη τε εὐθὺς ἐς τὸ παλάτιον, κἀν τοῖς νυκτερινοῖς ἔργοις ἔτι καὶ μᾶλλον ἑλὼν αὐτὸν ὑπερηυξήθη, ὥστε καὶ ὑπὲρ αὐτὸν ἐκεῖνον ἰσχῦσαι, καὶ βραχύ τι νομισθῆναι τὸ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ ἔτι δούλην οὖσαν ἔς τε τὴν Ῥώμην ὑπὸ στρατιωτῶν ἀχθῆναι κἀν ταῖς τῶν ὑπατευκότων γυναιξὶ συναριθμηθῆναι.

Erat vero vir eius, Hierocles quidam, Caricum mancipium, [qui Gordio quondam in deliciis fuerat,] a quo currus etiam agitare didicerat: qua occasione Imperatior, praeter exspectationem, placere coepit. Quum enim aliquando ludis Circensibus, e curru, ante Sardanapali* sellam, decidisset, inque eo casu galeam proiecisset; aperto capite conspectus ab illo, (imberbis autem adhuc & flava ornatus coma erat), statim raptus est in Palatium; & quum nocturnis flagitiis magis etiam cepisset Imperatorem, ita potentia auctus est, ut illo ipso plus posset; ac parum esse videretur, quod mater eius, servili adhuc conditione a militibus deduta in urbem, Consularium relata sit in numerum matronarum.

--Cassius Dio, Roman History, 80.15.1-3; Translated into Latin by Hermann Samuel Reimarus, 1753

[Elegabalus’ / Bassiana’s] husband was the Carian slave Hierocles, who had been Gordian’s concubine; he learned how to drive a chariot during this relationship. This skill is how the Emperor Elegabalus / Bassiana met him, for while Hierocles was racing, he happened to fall out of his chariot right in front of the Emperor’s seat. He lost his helmet in the fall; the sight of the baby-faced blond youth captivated the emperor, and so Hierocles was snatched up and immediately sent to the Palace. Hierocles’ romantic skills captivated the Emperor even more, and his clout rose to such prominence that, even though his mother was a slave, she was brought to Rome under military escort, where she was awarded the rank of Consular Mother.

 * Sardanapalus was a mythical Assyrian king known for his extravagance and gender-bending lifestyle



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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