The second half of the book takes us on a tour of Elagabalus' reception through the ages. Needless to say, a sex-mad evil Oriental tyrant did not get a good press, whether dressed up by German academics ("The late revenge of the Semites on Greco-Roman culture, whose chains it had silently worn for centuries") or French psychiatrists ("As the victim of a neuropathia dominated by a quasi-unconscious exhibitionism, he would probably have ended in dementia"). But for the Decadent movement, as Icks recounts, the worm turned and Elagabalus would become an alluring androgyne and an artist: "For artist he had been! The greatest of his time and many others, without doubt."
In the 21st century, he's a strong but gentle gay guy, a Michael Jackson-like pop star, or, in the words of graphic novelist Neil Gaiman, "Heliogabolus [sic] was just a weird kid with a thing about animals and big dicks."
It dates to 1873 and Piloty painted the work for the Vienna International Exhibition. The art critic Friedrich Pecht was a fan. He described it the following year as a successful attempt to "express the resurgance of the German empire".
Via History of the Ancient World, an interesting perspective from Colonel John D'Amico and the US Department of Defence on the US as ancient Rome and how it can cope with military threats. Full article is here (pdf):
The United States often goes out of its way to co-opt potential enemies. We protest China's human rights record, but feel confident that over time we can bring them into the world community by economic and political engagement. We educate large numbers of Chinese students in technical fields in our colleges and hope that they will institute change in their society. We sell them technology and teach them our methods. There is an obvious risk in doing so, but options are limited. In Augustus' time, many barbarians were trained, educated and served in the Roman army in the hopes of Romanizing them. Sometimes they were successful; other times it was used against them. Even members of Arminius' family stayed loyal to the Romans during his revolt. Whether it works on the Chinese or not remains to be seen. It did not work with Arminius.