Marlowe, the ‘Mad Priest of the Sun’, and Heliogabalus

  • Tom Rutter Sheffield Hallam University
Keywords: Marlowe, Heliogabalus, Greene,


Robert Greene’s reference in his preface to Perimedes the Blacke-Smith to another writer, apparently Christopher Marlowe, ‘blaspheming with the mad preest of the sonne’ is frequently regarded as associating Marlowe with the philosopher and heliocentrist Giordano Bruno. This essay sets out the evidence for identifying the mad priest with the Roman emperor Heliogabalus (AD 203-22), the subject of a lost play mentioned in the Stationers’ Register in 1594. The early modern reputation of Heliogabalus is delineated with the aim of establishing what Greene may have meant by the allusion.