Episode 21: The Real Housewife of Rome

What better way to celebrate the New Year than with a new episode of History is Gay? This time, Gretchen and Leigh dive into the brief, controversial, and totally extra reign of Emperor Elagabalus of Rome. Or rather, Empress Elagabalus! Whether it be marrying multiple wives and one husband, revolutionizing the Roman religion, installing women as senators, throwing parties with sex workers, or enjoying the attention of well-endowed men, Elagabalus was as unconventional as they come. And chances are, she may very well have been a trans woman. So grab your jeweled slippers and tiara and enjoy the real housewife of Rome, Elagabalus.

A Closer Look at Elagabalus

 

Portrait of young elagabalus.

Portrait of young elagabalus.

Roman Denarius featuring the bust of elagabalus (left) and the sun god Sol (Right) with upraised hand and whip. 221 CE. For a full database of Elagabalus coins,  click here .

Roman Denarius featuring the bust of elagabalus (left) and the sun god Sol (Right) with upraised hand and whip. 221 CE. For a full database of Elagabalus coins, click here.

Roman Denarius featuring the bust of Aquilia Severa (Elagabalus’ second and fourth wife). ca 219-222 CE. For a full database of Aquilia Severa coins,  click here .

Roman Denarius featuring the bust of Aquilia Severa (Elagabalus’ second and fourth wife). ca 219-222 CE. For a full database of Aquilia Severa coins, click here.

Roman aureus featuring the bust of elagabalus (right) and a chariot driven by four horses (right) containing the stone of emesa—representing Elagabal—topped by an eagle—a symbol of protection in Syrian iconography and of roman imperial authority in roman iconography. 222 CE.

Roman aureus featuring the bust of elagabalus (right) and a chariot driven by four horses (right) containing the stone of emesa—representing Elagabal—topped by an eagle—a symbol of protection in Syrian iconography and of roman imperial authority in roman iconography. 222 CE.

Roman Antoninianus featuring the bust of Julia Maesa (Elagabalus’ Grandmother). 218-219 CE. For more Julia Maesa Coins,  Click here .

Roman Antoninianus featuring the bust of Julia Maesa (Elagabalus’ Grandmother). 218-219 CE. For more Julia Maesa Coins, Click here.

Sculpture of Julia Soaemias (Elagabalus’ Mother).

Sculpture of Julia Soaemias (Elagabalus’ Mother).

Paintings Dedicated to Elagabalus

Heliogabalus, high priest of the sun  by Simeon Solomon. 1866.

Heliogabalus, high priest of the sun by Simeon Solomon. 1866.

The Roses of elagabalus , by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. 1888.

The Roses of elagabalus, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. 1888.

According to the Augustan History (uses he/him pronouns):

"In a banqueting-room with a reversible ceiling he once buried his guests in violets and other flowers, so that some were actually smothered to death, being unable to crawl out to the top.”

Elagabalus' entrance into Rome, with the baetyl representing elagabal behind him, as illustrated by Auguste Leroux for the novel  L'Agonie  by Jean Lombard (1902 edition). 1902.

Elagabalus' entrance into Rome, with the baetyl representing elagabal behind him, as illustrated by Auguste Leroux for the novel L'Agonie by Jean Lombard (1902 edition). 1902.

If you want to learn more about Elagabalus, check out our full list of sources and further reading below!

Online Articles:

Books and Print Articles:

  • Queer, There, and Everywhere by Sarah Prager

  • The Amazing Emperor Heliogabalus by John Stuart Hay

  • The Emperor Elagabalus: Fact or Fiction? by Leonardo de Arrizabalaga y Prado

  • The Crimes of Elagabalus: The Life and Legacy of Rome's Decadent Boy Emperor By Martijn Icks

  • Greek and Roman Sexualities: A Sourcebook by Jennifer Larson.

  • “Marlowe, the 'Mad Priest of the Sun', and Heliogabalus” by Tom Rutter, in Early Theatre Vol. 13, No. 1 (2010).

  • “Censoring Eliogabalo in Seventeenth-Century Venice” by Mauro Calcagno, in The Journal of Interdisciplinary History Vol. 36, No. 3, Opera and Society: Part I (Winter, 2006).

  • “Active/Passive, Acts/Passions: Greek and Roman Sexualities” by Ruth Mazo Karras, in The American Historical Review Vol. 105, No. 4 (Oct., 2000).

  • “History as Carnival, or Method and Madness in the Vita Heliogabali by Gottfried Mader, in Classical Antiquity Vol. 24, No. 1 (April 2005).

Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!

Episode 8: Nazi Punks Fuck Off, Pt 1: Magnus Hirschfeld

In this first part of a two-part series (so far!) of episodes dedicated to badass queer nazi fighters from our history, we dove into the fascinating life of Doctor Magnus Hirschfeld, the so-called "Einstein of sex." His approach to sexuality, gender, and race was decades ahead of the likes of Alfred Kinsey and Harry Benjamin, and who knows where society would be had his research not been destroyed. So come join us as we say, "Nazi punks, fuck off!" 

A Look at Magnus Hirschfeld

The einstein of sex, and such a snappy dresser, too!

The einstein of sex, and such a snappy dresser, too!

Dat gay book nerd life, yo. we get it, magnus. same.

Dat gay book nerd life, yo. we get it, magnus. same.

Some clips from Hirschfeld's 1919 film "Anders als die Andern (Different from the Others)":

Hirschfeld with two "Cross-dressers" (as they are labeled in this photo by the new yorker) outside the institute of sex

Hirschfeld with two "Cross-dressers" (as they are labeled in this photo by the new yorker) outside the institute of sex

lili elbe and her nurse, after lili's successful srs surgery at hirschfeld's institute of sex

lili elbe and her nurse, after lili's successful srs surgery at hirschfeld's institute of sex

A 1907 political cartoon depicting Hirschfeld as ‘Hero of the Day,’ drumming up support for the abolition of Paragraph 175 of the German penal code that criminalized homosexuality. The banner reads, ‘Away with Paragraph 175!’ The caption reads, ‘The foremost champion of the third sex!’ – US Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archives

A 1907 political cartoon depicting Hirschfeld as ‘Hero of the Day,’ drumming up support for the abolition of Paragraph 175 of the German penal code that criminalized homosexuality. The banner reads, ‘Away with Paragraph 175!’ The caption reads, ‘The foremost champion of the third sex!’ –US Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archives

Rise of the Third Reich and the destruction of Hirschfeld's research, personal library, and the legacy of the Institute of Sex

Nazis ransacking hirschfeld's personal library of materials

Nazis ransacking hirschfeld's personal library of materials

One of the most absolutely frustrating things we knew going in to this, and becoming even more infuriated by as we researched, is that not only did the Nazis burn and destroy nearly all of the research, papers, libraries, and tangible knowledge and work done and discovered by the Institute of Sex, but that we've all seen evidence of it happening under our noses for many many years. 

If you have ever learned anything about the Holocaust in a class, or seen a film, featuring newsreel footage or photos of the Nazi book burnings, you have seen this scene or shot below. And we'd be willing to bet: you were never told that this footage is of Nazi stormtroopers destroying the sexology research on homosexuality, gender identity, and human behavior by Magnus Hirschfeld, were you? Even the context of theliteral act of destruction of our history has been lost, glossed over, erased. We were burned and destroyed, and never even taught about it.

1933-may-10-berlin-book-burning.JPG
The pink triangle, a symbol which originated with hate and ostracization, marking our community in victimhood, now reclaimed. We think magnus hirschfeld would be proud. 

The pink triangle, a symbol which originated with hate and ostracization, marking our community in victimhood, now reclaimed. We think magnus hirschfeld would be proud. 

If you want to learn more about Magnus Hirschfeld, check out our full list of sources and further reading below!

Online Articles:

Books and Print Articles:

  • Heike Baur, The Hirschfeld Archives: Violence, Death, and Modern Queer Culture
  • Robert Beachy, Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity
  • Ralf Dose, Magnus Hirschfeld: The Origins of the Gay Liberation Movement
  • Charlotte Wolff, Magnus Hirschfeld: A Portrait of a Pioneer in Sexology
  • Kate Fisher and Jana Funke, “Let Us Leave the Hospital; Let Us Go on a Journey around the World”: British And German Sexual Science And The Global Search For Sexual Variation in A Global History of Sexual Science, 1880–1960
  • Not Straight From Germany: Sexual Publics and Sexual Citizenship since Magnus Hirschfeld, edited by Michael Thomas Taylor, Annette F. Timm, and Rainer Herrn
  • Jane Caplan, “The Administration of Gender Identity in Nazi Germany” in History Workshop Journal vol. 72 (2011).
  • Katie Sutton, “"We Too Deserve a Place in the Sun": The Politics of Transvestite Identity in Weimar Germany” in German Studies Review vol. 35 (2012).
  • Helga Thorson, “Masking/Unmasking Identity in Early Twentieth-Century Germany: The Importance of N.O. Body” in Women in German Yearbook, vol. 25 (2009).
  • Erwin J. Haeberle, “Swastika, Pink Triangle and Yellow Star: The Destruction of Sexology and the Persecution of Homosexuals in Nazi Germany” in The Journal of Sex Research vol. 17 no. 3 (1981).
  • Erwin J. Haeberle, “The Jewish Contribution to the Development of Sexology” in The Journal of Sex Research vol. 18 no. 4 (1982).

Videos:

Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!