It’s SaturnRAlia!

Congratulations go to Richard Armitage for taking home the Saturn Award for Best Supporting actor for Thorin Oakenshield…go you!!  Of course, I would be remiss if I did not attempt to work those fabulous στέφανος/corona (foliage wreath) shots into the Classical corpus.  My first effort was pretty obvious…Saturn Award…planetary trophy…planet named after Roman deity:

saturn wreathed

There we go…not a bad connection.  Saturn appears as the god of Time (identified with the Greek Kronos) here on detail from a larger mosaic depicting “seasonal” deities.  As you can see, he’s nicely crown with what appears to be a laurel (bay) wreath.  It works ok…Richard Armitage certainly seems to be pretty successful at “time” management in a number of senses…certainly in terms of scheduling and youthfulness.  I was going to go into more detail on Saturn, a kind of lesser known deity…UNTIL…

armitage as dionysus

This one took me exactly one place immediately…right back to the Villa of the Mysteries at Pompeii and an amazing frescoed room featuring the figure of Dionysus wreathed and laid out across the lap of a disputed female figure…

dionysus villa mysteris

Love, Love, Love this…Dioynus, thrysus across his lap, has simply had it – as he sprawls bonelessly back, his mouth slack, his foliage wreath slipping.  (I especially love the detail of his right foot…somewhere along the line, his sandal slipped off and is now hanging out of sight from the strap around his ankle.)  In the photo above, Richard Armitage…wreath askew, award in hand,  is comically feigning exhaustion, eyes shut, mouth open, as he slumps in his chair next to the half finished dessert and empty glasses that testify to the end of an evening of revelry.

Love this too!  Well played sir!!

Let the SaturnRAlia festivities continue!!!

 

Golden Boys: King Midas and Thorin Oakenshield

“It’s this attraction to gold which becomes their downfall, has always been at the back of his mind.”

 -Richard Armitage (http://collider.com/richard-armitage-the-hobbit-interview/)

The allure of gold, the danger of succumbing to greed, is a recurrent theme in many world societies, and it was certainly of interest to the ancient Greeks.  Arguably the most famous cautionary tale from Greek mythology is the story of King Midas.   As the Greeks tell the story (and a lot of them do!)  Midas was a powerful king of the kingdom of Phrygia in central Anatolia.  He was renowned for a lot of things, including wisdom and a love of the arts and literature, but it is the story of The Golden Touch that most everyone remembers.

A lot of authors tell this story and virtually all the versions start with the wanderings of the reveling followers of Dionysus, his favorite satyr friend Silenus in particular.  The revelers were travelling through Midas’ neck of the woods and Silenus was separated from the group, ending up in the famous rose gardens of Midas.

Silenus brought before the king... Source: http://www.ancient.eu.com/midas/

Silenus brought before the king…
Source: http://www.ancient.eu.com/midas/

When the drunken old satyr (half man, half goat) was apprehended and brought before the king, Midas treated him with cordiality and hospitality.  When Dionysus heard of the friendly reception that Silenus had received from Midas, he offered the king anything he wished in thanks.  Midas asked Dionysus to grant him a golden touch…that is, that everything he touched would turn to gold.

In theory, this sounds like a good idea, but in practice it turns into one of those “be careful what you wish for” scenarios.  Dionysus told Midas as much, warning him of the potential dangers of such a wish, but Midas would not be talked out of it, so the wish was granted.  Initially, Midas was ecstatic…touched a branch – Presto! – gold branch.  Touched a rock – Shazam! – er…you get the picture.  Midas made his way home, touching everything in sight as he went.  (Good thing ancient kings always traveled with large retinues – somebody had to carry all that gold!)

By the time he made it back to his palace, Midas was jubilant…and famished.  Gold making is hungry and thirsty work!  He ordered a feast to be laid out for him and quickly encountered the catch of his golden wish.  Everything he touched turned to gold…everything, including the bread he picked up to eat and the wine he tried to drink.  When he tried to sleep, his comfy bed with its sumptuous coverings, turned to cold hard gold too.  Before long, the very sight of gold was abhorrent and Midas was headed back to beg Dionysus to reverse the “gift.”

This story served two purposes for the Greeks.  It was an etiological myth that explained why gold was so plentiful in a certain river in Lydia…Dionysus instructed Midas to bathe in the river Pactolus to lose the golden touch.  It also served as yet another illustration of the Greeks’ assertion that sophrosyne was the way to go.   Midas would have been fine with a moderate gift of gold from Dionysus, but his greed in wanting it all was his undoing.

Thorin’s ability to withstand the lure of the “dragon sickness” that had consumed his grandfather is certain to be a major theme in the remaining films of The Hobbit trilogy.   Thorin is even more aware of the potential dangers than Midas.  Midas had only been warned of the threat…Thorin has seen for himself the damage that greed for gold wrought on his house.  I will be very interested to see how Richard Armitage characterizes this growing obsession in Thorin’s character….the peeks from the trailer are alluring!

Hair’s to you Richard Armitage! (I’m sorry – I had to do it!)

**WARNING** :  There may be an excessive number of alliterative hair descriptions below…

This week’s  “oof” installment, with it’s discussion of Thorin’s luscious locks started me thinking about hair.  Maybe it’s a holdover of my hard rock days, but I have a soft spot for long haired men – in theory at least.  There is just something wild and untamed about a man with a magnificent mane…something powerful perhaps.  There is ample indication from a variety of cultures of the significance placed on unshorn hair.  It had a variety of meanings to different people…To the Nazirites of the Hebrew Bible (most famously Samson) unshorn hair was a source of power and strength.  To the Gaelic Irish, long hair was a symbol of allegiance to Ireland as it was infiltrated by colonial forces.  To the Sikhs it represents the strength and vitality of the whole religious community.   For many cultures hair can be a  “crowning glory” or when shorn, an indication of abject humiliation and scorn.

Although long hair seems to have been common for men in earlier periods of Greek history, after the 6th century BC there are clear indications that shorter hair became much more customary. (the Spartans being the exception to the rule.)  It’s not surprising that the increasingly militaristic nature of Greek culture in the 6th and 5th centuries BC would produce a trend toward shorter male hair…long hair must have been a decided disadvantage on the battlefield.  I’ve always been intrigued by some of the characterizations of the Persians as being overly coiffured and perfumed…for the 5th century Greeks this effeminate characterization of a feared and hated enemy was empowering.   While there are some Greeks who are represented as long haired in this period, the character who most regularly sports long, luxurious tresses is the god Dionysus.  This is doubly interesting to me since Dionysus is one of the gods in the Greek pantheon whose origins are not exactly clear.  There are several conflicting birth stories, and a lot of other stories that suggest at least some degree of connection between this deity and the exotic  East. (the Persians fall into that category as well…the Greeks were at once intrigued and repulsed by various elements of eastern cultures)

Dionysus and a satyr Source: http://www.theoi.com/Gallery/K12.3.html

Dionysus and a satyr
Source: http://www.theoi.com/Gallery/K12.3.html

Dionysus by Kleophrades Painter Source?  pantherfile.uwm.edu

Dionysus by Kleophrades Painter
Source: http://www.pantherfile.uwm.edu

A relative latecomer into the pantheon, Dionysus was established as the youngest of the Olympian gods.  He is associated with the theater, but particularly with wine and reveling.  The vase paintings above show us the typical look of Dionysus.  He is most often depicted wearing elaborate Eastern Greek style robes and is often found in the company of satyrs and maenads.  One other main attribute of Dionysus is his elaborately styled curls and beard.   “Back in the day”  I used to pay big money and sit in the stylist’s chair for hours to achieve the kind of spiral curls that Dionysus wears.  Take a close look at his beard and you will see that some artistry has been applied there as well, to articulate the edges into individual curls.  Dionysus’ whole look is something that would have been a bit suspect to the average Greek, who after the Persian Wars, was inherently suspicious of things with an eastern tang.  The cult of Dionysus was at once a mainstream part of Greek polytheism, and also on the fringe.  There were ecstatic and orgiastic qualities of the cult practice that made more than a few Greeks uneasy…one only needs to read Euripides’ The Bachhae to witness what the cult of Dionysus might get up to.   For Dionysus, long curling locks represented an exotic, mysterious nature.

Love it or hate it, it seems that long hair on men is here to stay (My son is currently sporting a look that is somewhere between Dionysus and Shaggy -*sigh*  there are much bigger battles to be won!)  I love Richard Armitage and his most common close cropped style, but I have to say, the man can certainly rock the wigs and hair extensions…

Whether it is as Sir Guy of Greasy Locks….boozy and tormented in Robin Hood S3 Episode 1…

Sir Greasy...*ahem* I mean Sir Guy Source:  www.richardarmitagenet.com

Sir Greasy…*ahem* I mean Sir Guy
Source: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

Or a gloriously coiffured Sir Guy returned and ready for action after a trip to Price John’s personal stylist in S3 Epidsode 5…

Sir Guy of Gorgeous... Source:  www.richardarmitagenet.com

Sir Guy of Gorgeous…
Source: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

Or Thorin in the moonlight remembering a painful past…

Remembering past battles... Source:  www.richardarmitagenet.com

Remembering past battles…
Source: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

Or Thorin preparing for yet another fight….

Thorin bracing for a threat... Source:  www.richardarmitagenet.com

Thorin bracing for a threat…
Source: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

Or Thorin…who am I kidding?!  There are just way too many examples of Thorin’s uncrowned glory – and with two films still to come – the mind boggles!  Suffice it to say that Richard Armitage can hair act with the best of them!!