Abstract The Vita Heliogabali in the Historia Augusta consists of a political-biographical first section (1.4––18.3), generally considered to be historically useful, followed by a fantastic catalogue of the emperor's legendary excesses (18.4––33.8), generally dismissed as pure fiction. While most of these eccentricities are probably inventions of the ““rogue scholar,”” it is argued that the grand recital of imperial antics, more than just a detachable appendix, serves a demonstrable ideological purpose and is informed by a unifying rationale, which in turn helps explain the ““Lampridian”” Elagabalus as historiographical construct. Within the sequence of Antonine biographies Elagabalus, ultimus Antinonorum, marks the climax in a progressive tendency towards tyranny and is accordingly styled as transcendental despot; multiple topoi from the literary tradition provide the generic coordinates for this larger-than-life portrait. Food and sex in particular, both typical elements in this context, are inflated in Heliog. into major thematic systems to signal the emperor's tyrant status, to bring out his distinctive attention to aesthetics, and to enhance the Life's literary cohesion.
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