Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

An innocent exterior masked the degenerate character of Elagabalus, emperor of Rome at the precocious age of 15. Having come from Syria, Elagabalus quickly set about establishing the Phoenician/Syrian god Elagabal and the Phoenician goddess Tanit as the leading deities of Rome. His marriage to a Vestal Virgin reenacted the sacred marriage of the divine couple Ba‘al H|amoµn and Tanit. Elagabalus’ frequent forays to the public baths in search of male lovers and the subsequent promotions of his sexual partners to high political office soon proved ill-advised. A plot headed by his aunt led to his murder after only four years as emperor.