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Even the Roman Empire isn’t safe from trans ideology

Elagabalus ruled from 218-222 AD, before dying at the age of 18

November 21, 2023 - 4:15pm

Museums in this country are becoming a laughing stock. In the latest example of capture by dogma, references to the early third-century emperor Elagabalus at a museum in North Hertfordshire will in future refer to him as “she” in an attempt to be “sensitive” to his pronoun preferences.  

“Elagabalus most definitely preferred the she pronoun, and as such this is something we reflect when discussing her in contemporary times,” says Lib Dem councillor Keith Hoskins, who is executive member for arts at North Herts Council. I’m surprised to hear anyone speak with such certainty about Elagabalus, who died 1,800 years ago. Are they now holding seances in Hitchin?

How such “preferences” are established is hilarious in itself. The museum consults notable authorities such as Stonewall and — I’m not making this up — the LGBT wing of the union Unite. They have offered advice, it seems, on how to make sure that the museum’s “displays, publicity and talks are as up-to-date and inclusive as possible”.  

Up-to-date and inclusive? Museums are about periods of history which were anything but inclusive, and they can’t be made so retrospectively. Elagabalus was a wildly immature boy who became emperor at 14 and was assassinated four years later. Almost everything that’s been written about him is contested, and much of it has been dismissed as a hostile invention by the regime that followed.

It’s also worth pointing out that Latin uses third-person pronouns (she/he) much less frequently than English, because the subject of a verb is understood rather than stated. I’m sure the LGBT wing of Unite would be happy to confirm this fact, which will be familiar to anyone with even the most basic knowledge of Latin. 

Suddenly we’re being offered a partisan version of the past, in which individuals are labelled according to ideologies invented about 20 years ago. It has even affected the British Museum, whose blockbuster Stonehenge exhibition in 2022 included items from a burial site in East Anglia with the caption “Gender Neutral”. 

It claimed that the presence of a necklace and a dagger in the same grave “suggests gender rules were being transformed”. Does one of this country’s national museums really believe that our ancestors sat around a fire, stating their pronouns and discussing their gender identities?

It’s tempting to think that the British Museum might be better occupied looking after its collections, some of which appear to have been sold on eBay, than imposing anachronistic notions on the past. But there is a serious point here. Most people don’t have time to go to archives and study original documents. They expect to be able to trust museums, assuming that what they’re being told is backed up by scholarship, not a piece of fashionable propaganda. That assumption no longer holds. 

A couple of months ago, the University of Leicester published guidance on “trans-inclusive” practice in museums, galleries and heritage sites. It argued that museums should be places where children can explore their gender identity and misrepresented critics, claiming that “objections to trans content frequently intersect with homophobia, misogyny and racism.”

Preposterous claims about historical figures are the inevitable result of refashioning history to suit a modern obsession. Museums have no business claiming that a Roman emperor was a woman or that Stone Age people were gender-neutral. That’s propaganda, not education — and it erodes public trust. 


Joan Smith is a novelist and columnist. She has been Chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Board since 2013. Her book Homegrown: How Domestic Violence Turns Men Into Terrorists was published in 2019.

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Chris Hume
Chris Hume
6 months ago

Suddenly we’re being offered a partisan version of the past, in which individuals are labelled according to ideologies invented about 20 years ago.

Anyone with a passing knowledge of the workings of totalitarian ideologies and religious cults will not be remotely surprised by this. This method of falsifying the past to legitimise a new order is far from new, as Orwell so famously illustrated in 1984. What surprises me is how readily our institutions have oriented themselves to the great god of American Progressivism, and how meekly the public has just shrugged as reality itself is twisted and warped by obvious and ludicrous lies. 

Mrs R
Mrs R
5 months ago
Reply to  Chris Hume

This is Gramsci writing in 1915: “Socialism is precisely the religion that must overwhelm Christianity. … In the new order, Socialism will triumph by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches and the media by transforming the consciousness of society.”
What we are reaping is the fruits of a very long march that made its greatest headway at first in academia. That was all that was needed.

Sco Sh
Sco Sh
5 months ago
Reply to  Mrs R

Please don’t think that this is entirely a socialist thing. I am a democratic socialist and I’m not falling for all this trans bs one bit. Science first

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
5 months ago
Reply to  Sco Sh

Yes, it’s the neo-liberals pushing this stuff, but then political labelling is so inaccurate these days: Trump is H****r and Biden is a communist. Enough already!

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
5 months ago
Reply to  Mrs R

However it happens, I will not succumb and will go down kicking and screaming.

Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
6 months ago

The museum’s references are evidence not of what Elagabalus was, but of what the museum’s administration is. And, as long as we’re discussing Latin, let’s ask this question: if Elagabalus thought he was a woman, why didn’t he (and his contemporaries) call himself Elagabala? Latin names reflected the sex of their bearers by using gendered endings.

Johan Grönwall
Johan Grönwall
6 months ago

We’re living in a Monthy Python sketch directed by Walt Disney Pictures.

R M
R M
6 months ago

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.

George Orwell, 1984

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
6 months ago

Elagabalus most definitely preferred the she pronoun, and as such this is something we reflect when discussing her in contemporary times,” says Lib Dem councillor Keith Hoskins, who is executive member for arts at North Herts Council.

Ah, someone’s identifying as Lib Dem. That explains it.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
6 months ago

Not one Roman emperor ever said, “I think I am becoming a gal.” Some of them did say, “I think I am becoming a god.” And, on occasion, “I think I am becoming a gourd.”

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
6 months ago

Quite a few of them were mad, murderous bastards with a penchant for cross dressing.
If the “trans community” want to claim the very worst of the worst as one of them then why not?

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
5 months ago

Which one was that?

It’s always been my heart’s desire to obey the maxim : Follow The Gourd!

Martin Goodfellow
Martin Goodfellow
5 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

It was Vespasian. He was known for his sense of humour.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
5 months ago

I’m pleased that the divine significance of gourds made it into our era, thanks to Monty Python.

Made sure I acquired a gourd on my latest trip to Pekin.

Last edited 5 months ago by Dumetrius
Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
5 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius
Dumetrius
Dumetrius
5 months ago

Brilliant. Words for the pub. I’ll be a tuppenny classicist before long.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
6 months ago

Don’t you just wish at this stage that we had an actual gendered language like French or Russian. I can’t imagine they’d bother to rework the whole of their linguistic system to get rid of those pesky gendered endings to nouns, articles, adjectives, pronouns, participles and verbs.

But watch this space – I’m sure some tenured professor who’s a they/them/ze is working at it even now.

Ewen Mac
Ewen Mac
5 months ago

I’ll bet you a pound to a penny the majority of staff think it’s nonsense but are too scared to speak out. Time and again you read of this situation where gender ideology is imposed and most staff understand that it’s nonsense, but rationalism has been so successfully conflated with “hatefulness” that they’re too sacred to speak up.
Which is exactly what Denton’s International Law understood when they first advised gender ideology activists to hitch their wagon to the LGB movement – it would be a protective “umbrella” against criticism. It’s a tiny minority of “true believers” (and grifters) imposing their will on the majority.
Also the Lib Dems are paid around half a million a year from the manufacturers of puberty blockers (Ferring Pharmaceuticals), so they’ll come out with any old garbage if the price is right.

Last edited 5 months ago by Ewen Mac
R Wright
R Wright
6 months ago

If trans people want to be associated with infamous madmen from history then they can feel free.

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
6 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

The academic consensus will soon be that Elagabalus was a leader of genius, assassinated before she could overturn gender norms 1,800 years early. Before long, “she” will be the only Roman Emperor children are taught about.

Graham Bennett
Graham Bennett
6 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Unfortunately so!

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
5 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Just wait until they find out ‘she’ was Black (sic) too!

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
5 months ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

A female muslim with disabilities

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
5 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

Yes file under: It takes one to know one

William Amos
William Amos
5 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

My thoughts exactly.
Any mildly curious reader will turn straight to the accounts of Elagabalus in Cassius Dio and Gibbon and find delineated a corrupt, feckless, self indulgent child-abuser, a serial rapist and murderer, a tyrant and coward who had small boys castrated to serve his false Gods.
A ruler so foul, cruel and vain that Gibbon calls him not just the worst Roman Emperor but goes on to say that his “inexpressible infamy surpasses that of any other age or country”
With friends like these etc.

Last edited 5 months ago by William Amos
Nic Cowper
Nic Cowper
5 months ago

Finally: “The Emperor’s new pronouns” – Will the penny drop?

Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
6 months ago

Latin does not have third person pronouns; instead demonstratives were used. Why do I get the impression that Hoskins doesn’t know what he’s talking about?

Martin Goodfellow
Martin Goodfellow
5 months ago
Reply to  Erik Hildinger

“is, ea id” are Latin’s 3rd person pronouns. They were not always used, as in Spanish today.

Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
5 months ago

Those demonstratives were used that way, as were other demonstratives such as ille, illa and illud, or iste, ista and istud. Still, they were demonstratives, not pronouns. At some point the ille, illa and illud series came to be used in Vulgar Latin as pronouns and articles, and then collapsed into the pronouns and articles found in most Latin languages, thus, “il”, “elle”, “ella”, “le”, “el,” “la”, etc. I know this is pedantic, but I just want to make the point that Hoskins is likely repeating something he heard from someone else who also doesn’t know what he’s talking about– his use of the term “pronoun” shows this. Roman historians of the period used Classical Latin and would have used a demonstrative in referring to Elagabalus; you’re right about that, and the demonstrative would have been gendered. Regards.

Last edited 5 months ago by Erik Hildinger
rob drummond
rob drummond
5 months ago
Reply to  Erik Hildinger

No surprise there then

j watson
j watson
5 months ago

The next full meeting of the North Herts District Assembly should be quite entertaining and lets hope the agenda includes debate regarding the interpretation of Latin verbs and not just the usual about refuse collection and dog fouling etc. How does one get a ticket?

Last edited 5 months ago by j watson
Dumetrius
Dumetrius
5 months ago

Shouldn’t we be using the word ‘Empress’, in interests of sensitivity and avoiding deadgendering?

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
5 months ago

Preposterous claims about historical figures are the inevitable result of refashioning history to suit a modern obsession.
Reinterpreting history using a contemporary ideological lens in order to weaponise the past for use in today’s political activism. Such is Historicism and moral presentism.

Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
5 months ago

Exactly right.

Sco Sh
Sco Sh
5 months ago

Please don’t think that this is entirely a socialist thing. What do the libertarians have to say on this? I am a democratic socialist and I’m not falling for all this trans bs one bit. Science first

Last edited 5 months ago by Sco Sh
Martin Smith
Martin Smith
5 months ago

Universities, museums, heritage… how much longer will people even bother?

Last edited 5 months ago by Martin Smith
Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
5 months ago

The concept of gender comes from Latin languages. Ironically, this linguistic tradition fixes an object-noun with a ‘given’ gender (le or la, un or une in French).
But I don’t think this conflicts with gender philosophy today. These non-binary activitsts are just rebels who want to defy what society expects of them and their fixed pronoun and the easiest way to do that is with piercings and hair dye as well as asking the world to refer to them as dey and dem.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
5 months ago

Get on with you, cant take a joke.