Great Historic Pranks and Hoaxes

Elagabalus. Rome 101

39. The Emperor Who Invented the Whoopee Cushion

Roman emperor Elagabalus (204- 222) was declared ruler of the empire when he was barely fourteen. As might be expected, handing that kind of power to a teenager did not turn out well. While not as cruel as some of Rome’s more monstrous rulers – he was no gratuitously cruel Caligula or Commodus – Elagabalus did display the occasional mean streak.

That streak often showed in his practical jokes, which, considering that he was emperor with none above him, always meant punching down. At the milder end of Elagabalus’ pranking was his propensity for seating some of his more pompous dinner guests on the ancient Roman version of whoopee cushions, that emitted farting noises when they parked their posterior. At the crueler end of the spectrum, as seen below, was putting people in fear of their lives.