Shortlisted for the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize 2022.
In, The Mad Emperor the first biography of Heliogabalus in over half a century, Harry Sidebottom unveils the high drama of sex, religion, power and culture in Ancient Rome as we’ve never seen it before.
On 8 June 218 AD, a fourteen-year-old Syrian boy, egged on by his grandmother, led an army to battle in a Roman civil war. Against all expectations, he was victorious. Varius Avitus Bassianus, known to the modern world as Heliogabalus, was proclaimed emperor.
The next four years were to be the strangest in the history of the empire. Heliogabalus humiliated the prestigious Senators and threw extravagant dinner parties for lower-class friends. He ousted Jupiter from his summit among the gods and replaced him with Elagabal. He married a Vestal Virgin – twice. Rumours abounded that he was a prostitute.
‘Buy the book; it's very entertaining.’ David Aaronovitch