A museum in the UK has recognized the Roman emperor Elagabalus to be a transgender girl.
The North Hertfordshire Museum in Hitchin, a city north of London, stated that the choice was prompted by classical texts that allege the emperor as soon as stated, “name me not Lord, for I’m a Girl.” The phrases had been written by Cassisus Dio, a widely known Roman historian and administrator.
The museum has determined that it’ll now confer with Elagabalus, who dominated from 218 to 222 AD, with the pronouns she/her.
“We attempt to be delicate to figuring out pronouns for folks previously, as we’re for folks within the current, it’s only well mannered and respectful,” stated Keith Hoskins, govt member for Enterprise and Arts at North Herts Council, which helps run the museum, in response to the Telegraph. “We all know that Elagabalus recognized as a girl and was specific about which pronouns to make use of, which exhibits that pronouns usually are not a brand new factor.”
However consultants are combined on the museum’s resolution. “That is as tough [an] space within the historical world as it’s now. What is claimed by Romans about Elagabalus powerfully reminds us that debates in regards to the boundaries between female and male return hundreds of years (we aren’t the primary era to have these debates),” Mary Beard, writer of Emperor of Rome: Ruling the Historical Roman World, wrote to TIME.
The museum has a coin of Elagabalus in its LGBTQ+ assortment. Right here’s what to find out about their resolution.
The controversy behind the choice
Elagabalus was an fascinating determine in Roman historical past. Whereas it’s identified that the emperor married males, and ladies on separate events, there isn’t any consensus on the emperor’s pronouns.
The museum factors to statements made by Dio, who wrote a e-book on the historical past of Rome and was alive throughout Elagabalus’s reign, as proof of the emperor’s transgenderism. Additionally they reference texts that allege Elagabalus requested whether or not a “surgical process might make him feminine,” in response to a blogpost by the North Hertfordshire Museum.
Some consultants word that these texts had been written when the emperor was an early teenager, and that Dio may need been referring to Elagabalus with feminine traits, or alleging that the emperor was “termed spouse, mistress and queen” as a strategy to criticize the emperor’s rule. “References to Elagabalus carrying make-up, wigs and eradicating physique hair might have been written so as to undermine the unpopular emperor,” Shushma Malik, a Cambridge college classics professor, advised the BBC.
Beard notes that there have been different emperors who had been known as ladies by Dio, comparable to Nero. “Dio places within the mouth of the British insurgent Boudicca that Nero is a girl,” she writes.
Others, like Hoskins, say that the museum is true to acknowledge that Elagabalus most popular the pronoun she/her as a result of the textual content explicitly notes the emperor’s most popular pronoun use.
Both approach, Beard reminds TIME that “there have been historical debates in regards to the boundaries between female and male, however we will’t apply our personal trendy classes to the traditional world.”
The North Hertfordshire Museum didn’t instantly reply to requests for remark.