It’s the most wonderful time of the year Richard Armitage…


No, no, no…not THAT  “wonderful time.”  It’s the wonderful time of the year when my Topics in Ancient History class gives their presentations on Pompeii and Herculaneum.  As always, the first topics snatched up were those relating to sexuality, brothels and prostitution.  I am currently on a countdown to when the famous Priapus fresco from Pompeii will make an appearance.   For those who have not met him, Priapus was a Roman deity associated with the harvest and fertility whose most marked attribute was his ithyphallic appearance.   The anticipation of running into Priapus and the subsequent student reaction to him is killing me! (my classroom pleasures on this level are few and far between…don’t judge me 😉  )

What makes it even better this term is that thanks to my RL Facebook feed, I can see that Priapus fresco and raise with this little gem…

Priapus de Rivery

Priapus de Rivery – Musee de Picardie, Amiens

This bronze piece, dating to first half of the first century CE,  was found in Rivery France in 1771, and is said to be the earliest known piece of Gallo-Roman art in the Musee de Picardie collection.  Pretty big statistics for such a little guy.  I’ve blown him up here to show his details.  (although I can’t find his actual dimensions, looking at images of him in situ in the museum case, I’d say he’s about 8-10″ (20-25cm) in height.)   Here Priapus is depicted wrapped up in a cucullus…a cloak with a hood of a variety that is apparently typical of Gaul (modern France).  I love the beautiful bits of patina on the piece and especially the detailed treatment of his feet and footwear.  (I have a thing for tiny bronze toes).  But speaking of his details, one seems to be noticeably absent doesn’t it?   A certain ithyphallic element seems to be missing.  Or is it…

priapus 2

Au contraire!  This Priapus doesn’t have a phallus…he IS a phallus.  Always models of efficiency, this Roman sculptor made a kind of two-in-one piece!  I know that I should look at this with the appropriate level of scholarly seriousness, but honestly…this amazing running phallus immediately calls to mind a fine summer tradition in Wisconsin –

The Klement's Sausage Races at Milwaukee's Miller Park

The Klement’s Sausage Races at Milwaukee’s Miller Park

*wiping tears of hilarity*  Ahem, yes.  Sorry.  Scholarly seeking of Richard Armitage in the Classical Tradition…right.   Thanks to today’s image from Pilgrimage, I have fresh material to work with…

priapus compare

The intense gaze, the Gallic garments, the “pointy” imagery of the heads…the mind does wander as to what’s under that hauberk.

All in a day’s work people, all in a day’s work   🙂

40 comments on “It’s the most wonderful time of the year Richard Armitage…

  1. Esther says:

    Mwahahahaha!! This was a delightful read… and leaves things to ponder… 😉

  2. jholland says:

    Sausage races!!! Now that sounds like a race I’d like to see! And the Priapus bronze is just *coughs* magnificent! LOL

  3. sparkhouse1 says:

    Is this actually an ancient dildo????? I mean, seriously…is it? Interesting marketing tie in for Pilgrimage. I’ll take one in the guise of a certain Knight, please.

  4. Servetus says:

    Rough job, but someone’s gotta do it. I wondered when Priapus would make his appearance and agree he’s more like Raymond than like Thorin.

  5. Servetus says:

    Reblogged this on Me + Richard Armitage and commented:
    Obscura provides us with sophisticated cultural reflections on Armitage’s image in Pilgrimage.

  6. zan, O1C says:

    My inner pre-teen is blushing and giggling. My outer *ahem* mature self is yelling, “Honey, c’mere, you gotta see this!” And laughing hysterically … I seriously love your “day’s work”! 😉

  7. Kathy Jones says:

    Thank you for educational post. For me, it brought to mind the traveling gnome and what he might be hiding under his cute little coat. I need to turn off the TV.

  8. Helen says:

    LOL! Brilliant post 😀

    When I was 15 I was visiting Pompeii with my parents and we had a guide. He took my father in to what I assumed was the brothel to show him the frescoes, but wouldn’t allow my mother and me to see them. 😉 (it was a LONG time ago!) I wonder if it was the priapus freize? And will I finally get to see it? 🙂

    • obscura says:


      If it was a brothel (there are several…the big one juts out at a crossroads as a kind of triangular space) there would have been all sorts of frescoes deemed inappropro to you and your mother. The famous Priapus fresco (there’s a link to the image above) is from the House of the Vettii, but it was long ago removed from the wall and moved to the “secret cabinet” in Naples. I haven’t been to Pompeii since the early 90’s, so there may be a reproduction in the original spot now.

    • Helen says:

      Ha! Someone is still protecting my innocence (!) as the link won’t let me see the freize 🙂 First of all it made me register with WordPress even though I have no intention of writing my own blog, and nice even though I’m registered it just tells me that I’m not allowed to edit this item. Didn’t want to, dear WordPress, I just wanted to ogle 😉

  9. And I was waiting for you to point out that RA’s legs are shaped rather like Priapus’s. Look at those thighs! Sadly, I mean this as a serious observation. Yup, It’s official. I’m a goner with only one man on the brain. Really funny post—thanks.

    • obscura says:

      You know, I did notice the well developed quads here…I guess I got distracted and forgot! 😉 Thanks for pointing them out. As to the one track mind? No worries…I think that’s a fairly common condition in these parts!

  10. Interesting indeed (I mean it).
    hum…Sausage races, Priapus gaulois and R.A 🙂
    I never heard about sausage races.
    Have you got this link about Priapus in Musée de Picardie ? (it gaves you its height):

  11. Guylty says:

    LOL – those Romans… Man, they were really a dirty bunch 😉 Now, I didn’t quite catch this from your post: DID this sculpture have a practical purpose or not?

    • obscura says:

      Practicality is a relative right? For the Romans, it was more than just an object…I’d think it would have been part of a household shrine or something of the sort (it was found in the context of a tomb ultimately). I don’t think it had any kind of “applied” practicality…if you get my drift. 🙂

      *Note to self…future post on olisboi in order…*

  12. Hariclea says:

    haaaa, says she with utter glee! 😀 A topic i am well informed on 😉 Honestly! I’ve actually seen all this before in great detail… in prime time on the BBC 🙂 I love their Romans & Greeks documentaries and there have been a couple of great series and a whole episode was dedicated to this nifty deity. With all practical examples and depictions in frescos, paintings, statues and all manner of household objects. Boggles the mind that even today these are ‘hidden’ in museums…. As if a bit of fun and giggle would do students harm in studying the historical facts….

    But what i wanted to say was, did you know there is a contemporary version of the god in statue form in London?
    Priapus sculpture by Alexander Stoddart at 68 Vincent Square, Pimlico, London SW1
    Priapus sculpture by Alexander Stoddart at 68 Vincent Square, Pimlico, London SW1
    And if you wonder where is the one important symbol? well sadly left out although he has created it, the documentary i saw actually completed the sculpture, the artist was part of the documentary; explanations in this interesting article 🙂

    That little one has uncanny resemblance to that Norman knight 😉
    And now i want a Wurst for my dinner. Ta 🙂

  13. eahad says:

    Reblogged this on Nowhere in Particular RA and commented:
    The review of the classic myth is a taste not much in vogue, but when it surfaces, i get a kick out of it, almost like a private/public joke.

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