Virtutes Romanae: Richard Armitage and Clementia

An abundance of CLEMENTIA... Source

An abundance of CLEMENTIA…

Although Richard Armitage exhibits them readily, kindness/indulgence/mildness/forbearance are not exactly qualities that most people would associate with the bellicose Romans.  Nevertheless, CLEMENTIA was counted among the VIRTUTES ROMANAE, the qualities to be aspired to by all citizens.  The closest English cognate to CLEMENTIA is clemency or mercy.  The unlikely poster boy for this aspect of CLEMENTIA was none other than Julius Caesar.

"Chiaramonti Caesar"  Vatican Museum

“Chiaramonti Caesar”
Vatican Museum

Incoming…another historical side trip…

Julius Caesar, the conqueror of Gaul, the dictator of Rome, the last nail in the coffin of the flailing Republic, started out as impoverished but ambitious Roman aristocrat.   A man of tremendous political and military acumen, he maneuvered himself into immense power first by allying with the voting power of the working classes, despite his elite pedigree, and then by forming an “unholy trinity” with two other ambitious men, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and Marcus Licinius Crassus.  The three pooled their resources in order to pull an end run around the beleaguered and corrupt political process of the last stage of the Republic.  A power play that would serve their individual purposes well.  As happens with alliances of ambitious and power hungry people, this one ended up in civil war in 48 BC.  Guess who came out on top?  

Caesar was not the first individual to seize sole power in 1st century BC Rome…in fact, he had run afoul of Sulla as a very young man.  Evidently Caesar learned something from the experience.  Lucius Cornelius Sulla had cut a bloody path through the Roman elite, purging any and all political opponents in order to “clean up” the corruption in the government.  By contrast, in the wake of the civil war, Caesar famously offered full pardon – Clemency – to anyone who had fought against him.  He went one step further and included many of his former enemies in high positions within his dictatorship (this turned out rather badly for Caesar in the end obviously)  The actual sincerity of Caesar’s mercy has long been suspect, but it served it’s purpose in that whether the pardoned elites believed it sincere or not, the common people of Rome – Caesar’s power source – certainly did…especially after the consecration of a temple of CLEMENTIA CAESARIS in 44BC.  

So, CLEMENTIA certainly has a famous instance of association with mercy and clemency, which actually seems to have slanted how the term has cognated into modern English usage.  In Latin however, this word appears much more commonly with a slightly different meaning related to indulgence, forbearance, mildness and kindness…or so says the literature on the Roman Virtues.  I was skeptical, since it fit my purposes almost too nicely, so I looked it up via the PERSEUS PROJECT:

There in black and white (and blue hyperlink)

There it is in black and white (and blue hyperlink)

As you can plainly see, the entry for definition II of CLEMENTIA shows that this sense of the word appears quite commonly among prose writers…especially with writers like Cicero and Seneca…who had a great interest in Roman moralia.

CLEMENTIA in progress... Source


We have had daily proof in recent weeks that Richard Armitage embodies the Roman Virtue of CLEMENTIA as he graciously appears at the Old Vic stage door night after night…only minutes after what pretty much everyone describes as a physically grueling performance…to indulgently and kindly interact with fans.  Account after account confirms that despite the fact that he must be tired, he is kind and pleasant, signing autographs and taking selfies.  He appears to be very well aware how much it means to fans to meet him, however brief the meeting might be.  CLEMENTIA in the flesh it seems!


Have you recovered from that teaser yet? Into the Storm spReAd the love challenge

I can’t say much more….stay tuned for relief related posts here and do let me know if you have story to tell – I’d love to host you!

Me + Richard Armitage


Gary (Richard Armitage) hangs onto a vehicle for support as a tornado attacks Silverton in Into the Storm. Image from Warner Bros.


Loved the Battle of the Five Armies trailer? How about doing or reporting a kindness? The last challenge — “roses for Richard Armitage” in the form of kindnesses — yielded several bouquets, as you’ll learn from Jazzy’s post with the next challenge.

I really love this new challenge because it touches close to home. As fun as it can be to watch CGI tornadoes on film, a tornado is no joke. In interviews about the deathly frightening qualities of the experience, Steven Quale has remarked about moments from his youth in Madison, Wisconsin, and I’m guessing that he remembers (as do I) the Barneveld Tornado of 1984.

I’m going to enjoy this film, I think — but I’m also going to have last summer…

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ContRApposto Richard Armitage?

I was digging through some pictures in my cleverly disguised Richard Armitage folder when I came across this one…a favorite despite the copious costume blood:

John Porter (Richard Armitage) Strikeback Behind the Scenes Source

John Porter (Richard Armitage) Strikeback Behind the Scenes

Look at Richard Armitage going all contrapposto!!

The art aficionados in the crowd will recognize this term as coming from the artistic tradition of the Italian Renaissance.  It translates loosely to “counterpose” and refers to the body position where the weight is shifted onto one leg, turning the upper body slightly off-axis from the hips and legs.  Overall, it is a position that produces a figure that looks immediately more relaxed.  contrappasto compare

Even though the Anavysos Kouros on the left is to be understood as stepping forward, he appears stiff and static when compared to the mature Renaissance contrapposto style of Michelangelo’s David on the right.  Although both of these pieces are sculpted in marble and obviously immobile, they serve to illustrate the other hallmark visual effect of contrapposto – implied movement.  It seems almost inevitable that David will eventually shift his weight to the opposite leg, while the kouros appears perpetually frozen mid-stride.

What is fascinating to me is that although nearly a millenium elapsed in style and time between David and the Anavysos Kouros, the earliest known example of contrapposto is much closer to the kouros tradition than the Renaissance one.  The Anavysos Kouros dates to around 530 BC.  Less than fifty years later, the Greeks would embrace a very different sculptural style in a piece called the Kritias Boy

The Kritias Boy is an enormously important piece of sculpture for a number of reasons…one of them being that he is the earliest known example of the contrapposto technique and as such, marks the transition between the Archaic and Classical styles of Greek sculpture.  His remarkable provenance provides secure evidence for a relatively narrow dating window for the emergence of this style in Greece. …

WARNING….short historical divergence imminent  3…..2…..1…..

The armies of the massive Persian Empire, led by Darius the First, invaded Greece in 490 BC in reprisal for what they considered  Athenian interference in Persian domestic affairs.  The Greeks, especially the Athenians, were scrambling.  It seemed almost inevitable that Persians’ vastly superior numerical advantage would win the day.  However, owing to strategic and tactical decisions made by the Athenian commander Miltiades, tiny Athens defeated the Persian force at Marathon which led to Darius’ retreat not long after.  

This was a humiliating, but only temporary setback to the Persians, who immediately started ten years of  planning for a massive land based invasion of the Greek mainland which would eventually be led by Darius’ son Xerxes.   When Xerxes marched into Greece in 480Bc, he had a massive ax to grind against the Greeks…especially the Athenians.  After the famous last stand of the Spartans at Thermopylae, Xerxes (who, contrary to his depiction in 300, was not a ten foot tall giant pierced in every possible point) marched swiftly to Athens where he sacked the abandoned city and burned it to the ground…the sacred precinct of the Acropolis included.

Located in the Acropolis Museum in Athens - my shot  (not the human figures for scale)

Kritias Boy – Located in the Acropolis Museum in Athens – my shot (note the human figures for scale)

And, we’re back.  Long story short, the united forces of the Greek poleis repelled this Persian invasion as well, and by 478 BC, all that was left was to clean up the Persians’ mess.  Here’s where the provenance of the Kritias Boy comes in.  All of the materials on the Acropolis were considered sacred objects, so before the Athenians could rebuild from the Persian destruction, the sacred objects needed to be properly disposed of.  This disposal took the form of a massive bothros, or sacred dump dug along the slopes of the Acropolis in which the sanctified materials were buried.  This provides a terminus ante quem (date before which) for the sculpture…that is, we know that he must date to before the Persian sack of Athens in 480 BC.  Stylistically, we also know, by comparing him to every other sculpture in the typology leading up to him, that he cannot date to much prior to 480 BC either.  It is pretty clear that he was installed on the Acropolis very shortly before the Persian sack.

The utilization of contrapposto is clear in the tilt of his hips and the subtle torsion of his upper body.  It is even more evident in the rear view

Kritias Boy Rear View Acropolis Museum Athens My Shot..(yep, I stood there and waited until people cleared out of my immediate frame so as not to distract...I'm patient that way!)

Kritias Boy Rear View
Acropolis Museum Athens
My Shot..(yep, I stood there and waited until people cleared out of my immediate frame so as not to distract…I’m patient that way!)

Here the shift of the weight onto one leg is obvious in the relative positioning of the buttocks.  We can also observe the very subtle “S” curve of the upper body.  In all, it is a much softer, much more naturalistic pose than what was popular in the Archaic period.  This style went on to become ubiquitous in subsequent periods.

John Porter in contrapposto above is not alone in the Armitage oeuvre.  I thought you might not object to a brief overview…but first, Guy of Gisborne illustrates “assuming” the contrapposto position:

Another John Porter favorite

porter contrapasto 1

Lucas North contrapposto from behind

So they're disguised in Lucas North's painted on can plainly see the point :)

Lucas is “wearing” John Porter’s thighs here…

The leather contrapposto stylings of Guy of Gisborne

gisborne contrappasto 1

And more recently, Richard Armitage himself at CinemaCon

Oh hello there... (Sorry...I cut everyone else out of the frame - to give the thigh is due!) Source

This is by no means an exhaustive list…you may have noticed that I’ve left out a spectacularly good example of Guy of Gisborne…or maybe you didn’t.  Can you find it?  Happy contrapposto hunting Armitageworld!

Share Your Love to a Child in Need–Campaign to shower little ill boy Danny Nickerson with love via your birthday cards to him, July 23, 2014 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #607)

A worthy cause for anyone looking to SpReAd some Love!

Something About Love (A)

According to the article link shared by Celebrity Stylist Ilaria Urbinati on Twitter late Please-send-cards-to-ill-kid-DannyNickerson_Jul2214IlariaUrbinatiTuesday night, Danny Nickerson (right) is not quite six years old and has inoperable brain cancer. His 6th birthday is this Friday, July 25. Please consider sending him a birthday card.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

“Danny Nickerson is five years old and excited to be turning six this Friday, July 25th.

This past October, Danny was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor: one that is particularly resistant to treatment. Fewer than 10% of kids diagnosed with this type of tumor live beyond 18 months after diagnosis.”

“The only thing Danny wants for his birthday is more mail. So let’s send him some for his birthday. He also likes Lego and Super Mario, but he really just wants cards and letters.
Send him a card at the address below.

Danny Nickerson
P.O. Box…

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inter alia: The “Dangers” of Being the Best Friend and Preferred Travel Buddy of Obscura

Tweeted from the Greek Isles a few weeks ago.

Tweeted from the Greek Isles a few weeks ago.

I saw this Twitter pic of Graham McTavish enjoying a Fix Beer somewhere in the Greek Islands that led me into a pleasant day dream of he and Richard Armitage climbing the caldera on Santorini or something of the like.  I like the idea of Richard Armitage have a great time traveling with a friend.  I have very fond memories of tromping all over Greece with my bestie.  It’s probably a good thing that I never shared a lot of the details with my mother – she doesn’t want to know some of it, and it’s really best she doesn’t know about the “near misses” – I was a kind of intrepid traveler in my 20’s.

For example – I really don’t think she needs to know about the time we drove from the port of Chania on Crete, in our rented Fiat Panda “Topless”

fiat panda

It looked like this, but white…1.5L engine – what power!  (actual size)

We had just gotten off an overnight ferry from Athens (which we had boarded directly after getting off our delayed overnight flight from Chicago – I do not recommend this exact itinerary) and were in search of the beach at Falsarna which our map said was not too far away.  Since I was the only one in the group of three of us who could drive a standard transmission AND remembered to bring a driver’s license to Greece, I was the designated driver for the trip.  So, working on zero hours of sleep in a 36 hour period, I took off…struggling to control the powerful car…not really, I struggled to get the tiny overloaded car up to cruising speed!  It wasn’t long before we encountered our first problem…

mountain road

We could see the beach (this is not a photo of Falsarna, rather Sfakia, but you get the idea) from where we were, but we couldn’t find the road to get from Point A to Point B.   I continued driving along the road when a voice the back seat (travel is a funny thing…it can make or break relationships…this one broke on this trip) said excitedly, “There’s a road.”  Sure enough…there was something that initially resembled a road going down the mountain in the direction of the beach.  I turned onto it and drove about 100 feet before I stopped and said,  “I don’t think this is a road…”  It was unpaved and only about  half a meter wider than the Panda…and that’s not saying much.  On my left was a sharp drop off to the valley below, on my right the side of the mountain…not a lot of wiggle room.  The back seat said, “It’s fine…just keep going!”  By now, I just wanted to get to that beach, strip down to my bathing suit and wash 36 hours of travel grime off in the blue Mediterranean waters, so I adopted a new driving mantra:   “Just keep going.”

Turns out I was right…it wasn’t a road.  It was an access path through a mountainside olive grove.  I cleverly deduced this when we met the olive farmer coming up on his TRACTOR!  He didn’t blink an eye to see a carload of tourists.  He just pulled over…to the inside of course… and waved me to the outside so we could pass.  I had a terrifying view watching stones and dust skitter away down the cliff as the tires of the Panda barely clung to the side of the mountain path.

That was 1994, and it is not the last time my Bestie and I have turned touring ancient monuments and museums and going to the beach into a danger sport.  We’ve slowed down a bit lately though.  I find that having children has impacted my desire to “Just keep going.”  I’ve also found that successfully climbing up and down hundreds of steps in a mountain top monastery does not rule out Bestie tripping on the circular stairs in the hotel and going en pointe in Teva’s before tumbling down, dislocating a thumb and breaking a rib in the process.  (It’s a good thing there were cold beers in the mini bar – ice is hard to come by in many parts of Greece.)

The Sacred Way zig zags up a pretty decent incline here at students were bellyaching about going to the top...

The Sacred Way zig zags up a pretty decent incline here at Delphi…my students were bellyaching about going to the top…

Bestie is a trooper though…the next day she hoofed it all the way up to the stadium in the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi broken rib and all.  (I’m pretty sure she did this just to prove to aforementioned bellyaching students that they were slackers!)  

Our most recent trip thankfully produced no serious injuries…(although, trying to teach her to drive a stick shift may have taken several years off my life!) but on a recent visit to her house, I realized that there was another level to the danger…the collection of travel based knick knacks she’s amassed:




greek knick knacks 2


I shudder to think what might happen if we take that trip to the SPAM Museum this fall!

Memorial Donation to ChildLine

Thanks to all who donated in memory of Guylty’s father.  After a bit of wrangling around of funds to get it done (note: Just Giving no longer accepts PayPal as a payment form), I posted the donation to ChildLine through Richard Armitage’s Just Giving page.


This donation, combined with the funds donated directly to the local charity chosen by Guylty’s family, details here,  and the amounts donated directly to Just Giving on Guylty’s behalf, brings the total donated to right around $500.  We all know that sentiment is not measured in coin, but once again, the tangible proof of the generosity of this community, this time in support of one our own, warms my heart.




OT: Alternate meanings for the word “NO”

I love the infinite potential for variety in language…I saw a post somewhere this week that went something like “Tear and tier are pronounced the same but tear and tear are different…aghhhh!”   Some words have a varied array of meanings depending on context.  Others are more simple.  Take the word NO for example.  NO just means “NO”.  It doesn’t mean “convince me, seduce me, coerce me, force me,” or more recently, as in a horrible news story I read this week, “drug me so I don’t have the ability to object.  NO just means NO –


“a negative used to express dissent, denial, or refusal, as in response 

to a question or request”

Reading the news story, I was reminded of the story of a young woman I knew in college.  One summer night when she was 21, she went out on the town with her girlfriends.  They had dinner and went to some clubs.  There was plenty of music and plenty of alcohol.  She was having a great time laughing and dancing.  They ran into a group of young men…friends of one of her friends.  She began talking to one of the young men.  He was tall and good looking…recently discharged from the military he said as he rubbed his hand rather sheepishly across his very unfashionable crew cut.  She didn’t mind – she liked him, he made her laugh.  As it drew near closing time, and people began to couple off, the young man asked her if she’d like to come back to his place for a while.  She wasn’t a fool, she knew the language and she was attracted to him, but she was confident that things would go no further than she was willing to go.  She didn’t really even know how far she was willing to go at that moment.  When they arrived at his apartment, one he shared with two other young men, they listened to music in the common room for a while.  When his roommates came home she followed him to his room for more privacy.  Kissing led to petting, petting led where petting leads, and not much later, she was past the point she was willing to go.  She said wait…she said stop…she said no, but he wasn’t listening and he was much larger and much stronger than her.  Before she knew it, it was over.

She rolled to her side.  As she lay there wondering if that had really just happened, he pulled her close, kissing her shoulder and whispering in her ear that she was welcome to stay the night, or he could drive her home.  She murmured something about walking home and quickly dressed.  He insisted he’d drive her…it wasn’t safe for her to walk alone he said.  She couldn’t understand why her safety would be a concern – he had just raped her…or had he?  Rapists were violent strangers with knives who assaulted women in dark alleys, not good looking, charming friends of  friends.  He wasn’t violent, he didn’t have a weapon.  He hadn’t really even hurt her physically.

She thought about all of it as he drove her home.  When she went inside, she didn’t stand under a hot shower and scrub her skin raw or curl into a ball and weep uncontrollably as is often the depiction of victims in film.   Oddly, she didn’t even feel particularly violated.  Mostly she felt stupid.  SHE had gone out that night.  SHE had been drinking.  SHE had worn a miniskirt and sheer summer top. SHE had gone back to his apartment.  She wondered if SHE wasn’t as responsible as he was.

She never reported the incident.  She wasn’t sure there was anything to report.  She told her friends what had happened and he became X-the Rapist to all of them.  When she ran into him in the same club some time later she was shocked when he tried to renew their “acquaintance.”   Obviously, his version of what had happened between them was completely different than hers…he was clueless to the fact that he had used his superior size and strength to force sex after she had repeatedly said NO.  She stared at him for a long moment and then turned and left the club.  She never saw him again.

If it seems like I know an awful lot about what this girl was thinking, it is because SHE is ME.  I don’t write this now to gain condolence or comfort.  I made my peace with it a long time ago.  It is one of the events in my past that have shaped me into the woman I am today.  I tell the story because of the shock and dismay I feel when I see stories like Jada’s (linked above) and realize how little things have changed.

Sexual assault is defined as any non-consensual sexual act which is forced by one or more persons on another. Forms of sexual assault can include rape, sexual harassment, or any other form of unwanted sexual contact. In the US rape is, in many places, further divided into Date Rape, Acquaintance Rape, Drug Facilitated Rape and Statutory Rape.   RAINN cites that 2/3 of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.  Clearly, the message is not getting through.

When this happened to me in 1990,  victim shield laws were fairly new and such things as date or acquaintance assaults were just beginning to be taken as seriously as violent, forcible rape.  The cultural context that made my assailant think his actions were fine and me think they were my fault has changed, but obviously it hasn’t changed enough.  We all need to educate our children, regardless of gender, that NO very simply means NO.  It doesn’t matter how someone was dressed, it doesn’t matter how far things progressed to that point, it doesn’t matter if the partner is male or female.  NO means NO period.  Full stop.

I honestly don’t know how to address the type of individual who thinks it acceptable to steal consent completely by drugging a victim…or the depravity of people who queue up to watch it happen in person and on YouTube.


It’s a serious subject for a Sunday, so I thank you for allowing me to speak my piece.


Virtutes Romanes: Richard Armitage and Firmitas

Yesterday, I had every intention of writing a Roman virtues post on CLEMENTIA (mildness or gentleness), a quality that has been on display in Richard Armitage’s public appearances lately…contrasting nicely with the intensity of his performance as John Proctor in The Crucible.  I had definitely planned to do it…and then I took my son, his new learner’s permit in hand, out for a driving lesson.  After an hour of trying to mildly instruct him to “stop…Stop….STOP!” or helplessly but gently navigate him through the space between the asphalt truck and the asphalt roller or around a ginormous oncoming combine…

Him: "We won't fit!"   Me:  "It's OK honey...we will.  Just move over a little to the, no, not that much that's the ditch!"

Him: “We won’t fit!”
Me: “It’s OK honey…we will. Just move over a little to the right…no, no, not that much that’s the ditch!”

…any trace of CLEMENTIA in me had been eradicated.

Consequently, we’ll leave gentle and mild for the moment and move on to another virtue…FIRMITAS.  Probably the most ubiquitous modern association with firmitas lies in Vitruvius who wrote *the* book on Roman architecture.  Vitruvius combined FIRMITAS, (firmness, durability or strength) with UTILITAS (usefulness) and VENUSTAS (beauty) into what has come to be called the Vitruvian Virtues of Architecture.

As evidenced by the recent images shot by Francesco Guidicini for the Sunday Times/News Syndication, there is very little about Richard Armitage that is not FIRMITAS by literal definition.  However, while the ancient Romans certainly valued a strong physical form, the Roman virtue of firmitas was connected to its alternate meaning of tenacity or steadfastness.

Rome didn’t emerge as a Mediterranean super power overnight.  It started out as a dinky west central Italian city state ruled by a fratricide king and populated mostly by felons and malcontents who’d been kicked out of every other place in the area.  They had to scrap for just about everything…they even had to steal wives from their neighbors the Sabines, but they held fast and fought forward.  The power and extent of Roman influence grew over centuries of tenacious expansion during which they suffered a number of crushing defeats that could well have ended it all.  But as a culture, the Romans seemed to possess this sort of iron spine of perseverance...firmitas… that propelled them onward.  This was true on an individual level as well.  Although access to high political influence was limited to a very few elites, Roman society actually had a great deal of potential for upward economic mobility, which over time…with a healthy dose of firmitas… could lead to social and political mobility as well.  Stick-to-it-ness was a highly prized virtue for the Romans.

Reading through the “annals” of Richard Armitage’s career, one will find that there is a similar concept at work, beginning when he was an adolescent badgering his parents about the school he wanted to attend.  Despite a paucity of roles early on, he stuck it out…waiting tables, laying floors, doing whatever it took to fill in the gaps while he continued to tenaciously work toward an acting career.  More recently, (notably in the Telegraph article by Chris Harvey) we’ve seen him recount his firmitas in the steadfast determination to gain access to desirable stage roles by first building a reputation and a name as a screen actor.  It took years, and there may well have been times when he was ready to chuck it all, but he didn’t…he steadfastly pushed forward and then, there it was…

From the Old Vic Newsletter

From the Old Vic Newsletter




OT: An Inadvertent Tour de Force of Puerile, Euphemistic Double Entendre

I have a dirty little secret…well, actually, it’s maybe not such a secret:  I am frequently prone to a sense of humor that would do a 14 year old boy proud.  If this is not up your street, you may want to opt out now.

I was at my best pal’s house this weekend (we were channeling our inner 22 year old and going to a reunion show played by our favorite college bar band) and in the process of taking a photo of her knick knacks for a different post, we came across this**:


It seems innocent enough, but reading the can in the context of a common euphemistic meaning of the word *beaver* had us laughing so hard we cried…


Is it any wonder I’m not bothered in the least when Richard Armitage jokes about his “weapon” or lighting farts? (I blame it all on working in that industrial hose shop in college!).  I will resume my position as a grown up now. *cough*

**Actual Contents : one six inch stuffed beaver child’s toy