release in a series of books by William E. Jones, Heliogabalus pays tribute to the most decadent Roman Emperor. Who was this creature
who called himself Elagabalus, after El Gabal, god of the sun? What to
make of his addiction to luxury, his overbearing mother, his controversial
genitals? Enlightening texts can be found in the latest 2nd Cannons publication.
The book features accounts of Heliogabalus by Edward Gibbon, Herodian,
Cassius Dio, and the spurious Aelius Lampridius. It also contains a contemporary
text, “This Necrophilic Strategy Entails Some Risk,” a collaboration
by Bruce Hainley and William E. Jones, previously published only in expurgated
form, and now presented with all lurid details intact.
Varius Avitus Bassanius, later known in his infamy as Heliogabalus, ruled
Rome from 218 to 222 of the Common Era. After he was murdered by the soldiers
who had formerly supported him, his successor, Alexander Severus, ordered
that all sculptures of Heliogabalus be desecrated. The iconoclasm directed
against Heliogabalus was so nearly complete that very few portraits of
him still exist. William E. Jones has somewhat opportunistically dealt
with the paucity of images of this imperial person by inserting advertisements
from a bygone era at intervals in Heliogabalus. These advertisements,
and the book’s design in general, derive from the pages of that
avatar of 1970s urban culture, After Dark.