Thus spoke Elagabal: Divine arrangements and dynastic intrigues at the court of Elagabalus

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  • It is well-known that in his History Cassius Dio gave considerable space to divine portents. These would often disclose the destiny of future emperors, but, in some cases, it was the emperors who made use of predictions to legitimate their actions. As regards this latter group, two prophecies of the god Elagabal seem particularly worth investigating, for they foretold two crucial moments of the reign of the emperor Elagabalus, namely his rise to power in 218 and, in 221, his decision to adopt his cousin Severus Alexander and to bestow the title of Caesar upon him. It seems to me that both these interventions of the god Elagabal could have had a precise origin, being particularly useful to hide the machinations of Elagabalus’ mother and grandmother, Julia Soaemias and Julia Maesa, whose role of emperor-makers is not particularly evident in the account of Dio as it is, on the other hand, in that of Herodian. Starting from the examination of the contexts in which the prophecies of the god Elgabal took place, I would like to try to offer an explanation about why Dio decided to give them a certain relevance in his History. I will first analyse the circumstances that led Elagabalus to sit on the imperial throne. Then I will compare them to what happened when he decided to adopt his cousin, as it seems to me that significant analogies can be drawn between these two events.

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    Conference/Workshop Presentation
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International