UK Museum reclassifies Roman Emperor Elagabalus as Transgender

Wednesday, November 22, 2023
UK Museum reclassifies Roman Emperor Elagabalus as Transgender

The North Hertfordshire Museum in the UK has announced that it will be adopting new pronouns to reflect the transgender identity of the ancient Roman emperor Elagabalus. The decision to refer to the ruler as “she” is based on classical texts where Elagabalus explicitly requested to be called “lady.”

The North Hertfordshire Museum has expressed its commitment to inclusivity. Keith Hoskins, Executive Member for Enterprise and Arts at North Herts Council, emphasised the importance of respecting historical figures’ chosen pronouns, paralleling the approach taken by contemporary individuals.

Hoskins stated in an August release, “We try to be sensitive to identifying pronouns for people in the past, as we are for people in the present; it is only polite and respectful. We know that Elagabalus identified as a woman and was explicit about which pronouns to use, which shows that pronouns are not new.”

He further explained the historical context, debunking previous translations that inaccurately referred to Elagabalus as ‘they.’ This misinterpretation stemmed from the classical Greek language’s lack of gender distinction when referring to people in the third person. However, evidence, such as Dio’s text, clarified Elagabalus’s preference for the ‘she’ pronoun.

A statement from November 2021 on the museum’s website delves into the complexity of Elagabalus’s gender identity. Born male, Elagabalus identified as a woman during her early teenage years and unsuccessfully sought sex reassignment surgery which was an unknown quantity in this timeline.

Elagabalus, one of the most controversial Roman emperors, challenged societal norms of the time. The emperor’s marriage to the charioteer and former enslaved person Hierocles, along with her preference for being called ‘domina’ (lady) over ‘dominus’ (lord), showcases a multifaceted exploration of gender and identity.

This move by the North Hertfordshire Museum aligns with evolving discussions around trans-inclusive practices. Last month, the University of Leicester’s Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG) published new guidance on trans-inclusive practices in UK cultural institutions, sparking both support for trans rights and criticism from various quarters, underscoring the ongoing and intensified debate on this issue.


Stephanie Cime

ArtDependence WhatsApp Group

Get the latest ArtDependence updates directly in WhatsApp by joining the ArtDependence WhatsApp Group by clicking the link or scanning the QR code below


Subscribe to the Newsletter

Image of the Day

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


About ArtDependence

ArtDependence Magazine is an international magazine covering all spheres of contemporary art, as well as modern and classical art.

ArtDependence features the latest art news, highlighting interviews with today’s most influential artists, galleries, curators, collectors, fair directors and individuals at the axis of the arts.

The magazine also covers series of articles and reviews on critical art events, new publications and other foremost happenings in the art world.

If you would like to submit events or editorial content to ArtDependence Magazine, please feel free to reach the magazine via the contact page.