θηλή? papilla? It’s all nipple to me Richard Armitage

How does that Shakespeare quote go again? “What’s in a name…would a nipple by any other name still be…um…nipply?”

(Yeah, Yeah…most abject apologies to the bard and all…)

I was complaining to friends on Friday that I was beyond bored and Armitageworld was silent as a crypt with everyone occupied a la Crucible.  Then Saturday happened…Nipplegate Saturday (like Fat Tuesday and Black Friday!)  The resounding swell of spoofing does my satirical self good.  Far be it from me to let an opportunity pass me by, so I bring you a brief chronological survey of some ancient Greco-Roman nippleage?  Nipplage?

Late Bronze Age Nipples (2000-1200 BC)

"Prince of the Lilies" Archaeological Museum of Iraklion

“Prince of the Lilies”  (my circles)
Archaeological Museum of Iraklion

The painted plaster is damaged, but you can still make them out if you look closely…but then again, who notices nipples with that amazing hat?!  Too subtle?  This next image is one that I use in every survey class I teach:

Minoan "Snake Goddess" from Knossos, Crete

Minoan “Snake Goddess”
from Knossos, Crete

No class, it’s not her bared breasts or her nipples…it’s the SNAKES people – and maybe the bird perched on her head…and her pomegranate wreath fertility hat.  Nipples?  Totally mundane here.

Archaic Nipples (750-490 BC)

 (there are no Iron Age Nipples…I’ve looked everywhere, but since there is no figured art in Greece from 1100 – 800, alas, no nips)

Anavysos Kouros

Anavysos Kouros

Originally a grave marker, I have to admit that Kroisos is much more renowned for his thunderous thighs than his rather petite nipples.

My avatar dates to roughly this same period…lo and behold – Nipples!

Enthroned Zeus (fragement of ceramic cup) MMA Rogers Fund, 1911

Enthroned Zeus
(fragement of ceramic cup) MMA Rogers Fund, 1911


Kritios Boy Acropolis Museum - Athens

Kritios Boy
Acropolis Museum – Athens

Yep he has nipples, but he’s much more important because he is sculpted in a style that clearly marks the transition from the late Archaic to the Early Classical – or Severe Style.

High Classical Nipples (480-400 BC)

Centaur AND Lapith Nipples

Centaur AND Lapith Nipples

The sculptural program of the Athenian Parthenon is considered the epitome of the High Classical Style…yet nipples, human and semi human, abound!

Hellenistic Baroque Nipples (300-30 BC)

Farnese Hercules National Archaeological Museum, Naples

Farnese Hercules
National Archaeological Museum, Naples

Considering that this rendition of Hercules is well over life sized, those are some super huge Hellenistic hero nipples!

Even the Roman’s got into the Nipple Act Nipples

Prima Porta Augustus Vatican Museum

Prima Porta Augustus
Vatican Museum

In this, most likely posthumous, depiction of the Augustus, the divine emperor is shown in military garb with an elaborately detailed cuirass or breastplate.  The scene on it depicts the diplomatic high point of his long career – The Return of the Parthian Standards.  Right above that?  Fake nipples to go along with the fake navel which serve to model the natural male form on the cuirass. Here’s the thing.  They’re nipples.  All mammals have them, and occasionally they peek out of a costume through the deliberate design of the costume designer.

The smoking gun of Nipplegate. Source:  Thorinbaconshield

The smoking gun of Nipplegate. (psst…I’m pretty sure Richard Armitage knows his nip is showing…)
Source: Thorinbaconshield

No one will convince me that this particular hole placement was not deliberate and was not designed to produce a particular effect.  Frankly, human chests look a little odd without nipples…kind of like faces without eyebrows.  In this particular case, with this particular actor, people were intended to notice…intended to react, and it’s neither criminal nor a mark of depravity to do so. People have been noticing the nipples on classical sculpture for centuries, so I’m fairly certain that I have not degraded hundreds of years of classical scholarship by pertly pointing them out here.  I am equally certain that the reality of fans noticing, with appreciation, a nipple revealed by a costume gap, has by no means denigrated or desecrated their appreciation of the artist or the gravity of the work he produced. Class dismissed.

23 comments on “θηλή? papilla? It’s all nipple to me Richard Armitage

  1. Guylty says:

    Dayum – looking at all those male nips makes my nips go hard.. um. Well. Maybe that is TMI. But the eager student has questions, as usual – body hair. Just because it has occurred to me for the first time that your avatar-hottie actually comes with chest hair. Wheras all the other tots do not. Coincidence? Heightened sense of realism in archaic Greece? The question remains, of course, what did Augustus have under his breast plate? Or where is the stylized chest hair?
    Ooops, I have veered off the course. We were discussing nippleage…

    • obscura says:

      LOL…some might consider this whole post TMI, so bring it on.

      I think I talked briefly about this somewhere, but my avatar is extremely unusual (in my experience) in it’s depiction of chest hair.

      As far as sculpture goes, it’s pretty clear that the majority of sculpture was painted, so details like chest hair could have been added there, but I generally think that the absence of this detail on painted pottery suggests it’s likely absence on sculpture as a whole.

      Augustus? If his adoptive father Caesar is anything to go by, he was smooth as a baby’s bottom under that cuirass. (Caesar was reportedly obsessive about removing any and all body hair)

  2. Leigh says:

    I recall reading that the Roman citizens went to the gymnasia and had their bodies depilated by scraping or by rubbing with fine sand (pumice?). It sounds horribly painful. Was body hair perhaps an indication that the man belonged to one of the lower classes?

    Nonetheless, Richard looks scrumptious.

    • obscura says:

      Depilatory slaves were quite common. I think it has a lot to do with the Romans being a military society. Less body hair equals less vermin infestation…particularly for soldiers. Practicality probably evolved into aesthetic over time.

  3. Well said! Now I’m going to have to go back and take another look. Ha! And besides, what any of us do or do not say about any one or any topic is more illuminating about ourselves than the subject of our blog posts, comments, or tweets. And if we can’t make fun of ourselves, then we have lost our sense of humor.

    P.S. Of course, when I first saw the “exposed” chesticle architecture photo of Richard Armitage with your post, I instantly thought of Little Nell’s wardrobe malfunction in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” movie. That campy film and the dress up by the audiences were faves of my college friends and I.
    Oh Dear, just now a really disturbing image of “someone” wearing more makeup than I have worn in my lifetime, big poofy hair, fishnet stockings, a bustier–no bustles–and high heels comes to mind. Wait a minute, that image is actually turning me on. *fanning self*

  4. Perry says:

    Perry is now following your blog. I believe the best male nipples are those perched on a muscular breast. So, next to Proctor, Heracles are best. Augustus’s nipples seem to be in the wrong place. They’re like Janus- facing in two directions at once. I believe that Proctor has make-up on his nipple. In my vast experience, the color of the nipple matches the color of the lips. But then, I’m the nudge who insists he doesn’t have blue eyes.

    • obscura says:

      Did WP do it’s “unfollow” thing to you?

      Stage make up makes sense…I would bet money there is such a thing as nipple rouge for just such a thing.

      The cuirass…we’ll yes, the nips are definitely secondary to the narrative scene there 🙂 (btw…I’m quite partial to the 2D theeli (as the Greek is pronounced) on my avatar image 🙂 )

      • Hariclea says:

        Hm, i’m not convinced about the make up 😉 They looked pretty rosy in life 😀 It may just be the light i think. But it is not impossible as he had a lot of bruises and blood and stuff painted on which made a striking and horrid contrast to his perfect light skin. But make up or not i do like the image of somebody applying it 🙂

  5. jazzbaby1 says:

    A bit nipply in here. What’d I say, nipple? 😉

  6. Thank you for the enlightening history lesson. I am starting to like history 😉

  7. Servetus says:

    I knew you could be counted on to provide the most useful scholarly perspective here.

  8. katie70 says:

    Thanks teacher for the gRAet class. Much better than Am. Gov. which at times can be a bit boring.

  9. Hariclea says:

    Just love the references and such a nice reminder of a quite a few familiar figures. I love Hercules and this one in particular, it is the image that in my mind was always closest to the legend 🙂

    As to the rip, it’s artistic, creative and beautiful 😉

    On the Roman women.. i think they were probably mostly as bare as the men, if for no other reason than it is likely if the men liked to be hairless they probably preferred the women to be similar i guess. Waxing was very common as far as i understood, or so we were told in several site visits to ancient baths.

    Thanks for the insightful and interesting post it always reminds me that history classes were among my favourites in school 🙂

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