Virtutes Romanae: Richard Armitage and LIBERALITAS

When most people think of the ancient Romans, I suspect that one of the last things to come to mind is generosity – although the Romans were surely generous in “sharing” their culture with the entire Mediterranean basin!  In this context, we might be surprised to find that LIBERALITAS (generous giving) was included among the public virtues modeled by Roman society as a whole over the course of it’s nearly 1500 year cultural span (not including the Byzantines…quite a different variety of Roman).  

This time span is a concept that my students always struggle with…namely, the fact that it is difficult to make wide generalizations about the Romans because their culture, like all cultures, changes over time.  I wrapped up the ROME film class last week and will read final research papers this week.  Despite cautioning that they should be careful to include only info relating to the Late Republic, I’ve no doubt that I will read a good bit about Imperial Military tactics or the sexual mores of early Christian Rome.  It’s all Rome right?  Well, not exactly.  What LIBERALITAS meant to Julius Caesar is not precisely the same as what it meant to Constantine 350 years later…there are subtleties that vary over time as the culture evolved.  What does remain the same though is the primary definition of the term:

“Generosity, nobility, kindliness, magnanimity”

“Munificence, open-handedness, liberality”

which developed further to mean also,

“An instance of generosity, a gift, donation, contribution”

Interestingly (to me anyway 🙂  )  the majority of visual representations of LIBERALITAS come from the well into the Imperial Period of Rome.

The coin above dates to the Severan Dynasty (195-235 CE), specifically to the reign of the emperor Elagabalus (if you are looking for wild and woolly Imperial Roman hijinks, look no futher than Elagabalus)  The coin sports a portrait of the emperor on the obverse and a depiction of the personification of Liberalitas on the reverse.  The goddess is loaded up with all sorts of goodies to be distributed.  In her right hand she holds a coin shaker, in her left, an overflowing cornucopia.  I don’t see it in the descriptions of the coin, but it looks to me as if she has some variety of water fowl (looks goose-y to me) draped over her left arm as well.  The inscription describes her as “Liberalitas of Augustus,”  that is, the generosity of the emperor.

This seems to be a quite common coin reverse during the rule of a number emperors both before and after the Severan clan.  The emperor Constantine takes his display of imperial LIBERALITAS up a notch on the triumphal arch that bears his name…

This panel, on the NW corner of the arch, shows Constantine bestowing his generosity on his subjects…well actually, it shows Marcus Aurelius doing this – the Arch of Constantine is a really quirky example of imperial thrift as Constantine pillaged and retooled the monuments of his predecessors to quickly and cheaply construct his own massive celebration of self.  The panels depict scenes of the seated emperor passing out coins to his assembled subjects…Liberalitas Augustorum…

In this very cursory glance at imperial LIBERALITAS, it becomes pretty evident that such generosity might well be expected to have provided political returns for the munificent emperor.  In general, it does seem that the Roman ideal of LIBERALITAS usually did come with some strings attached…quid pro quo you know…

I think that it’s safe to say that as it relates to Richard Armitage, LIBERALITAS is more like quid pro no quo…shall we say, LibeRAlitas?  You know where I’m going now right?  Doodledom of course!

Brief recap:

Richard Armitage is asked and agrees to provide a doodle for the NF Network Celebrity Doodle auction, and then pledges to match the winning bid…


Bids on said doodle are vigorous from the start…

doodle snip

and finish at an impressive amount that elicits a generous response from the artist

finish doodle

LibeRAlitas indeed…and not just from the man himself but also from so many people in this fandom whose generosity is inspiring.  It’s one of my very favorite things about Richard Armitage…that he seems to possess a great spirit of generosity, and that it attracts a collection of people who are incredibly generous themselves.  You don’t have to take my word for it.  If you look back through the annals of the fandom, you’ll find a wide variety of fundraising efforts spearheaded and supported by Armitage fans from all over the world.  As I type there is fantastic auction (Here, Here and Here) and a special distribution of Amazon sales (Here) to raise funds for relief efforts in Nepal.  Generous giving at work.  I am proud to be among you!

LibeRAlitas for all!!   

A New CollaboRAtion for 2014


Be sure to stop by and give Gisbornes Boy lots of love for this amazing logo graphic!!

I am delighted to be collaborating with JazzBaby on the 2014 version of SpReAd the Love, a year long initiative to celebrate the wonderful generosity of this fandom in our local communities.  Charitable giving is something that is near and dear to my heart…to the hearts of millions really.  I often feel limited in what I am able to do financially, but I’ve come to realize that donations of money are not the only important contributions.  This is what I absolutely love about STL…check out the history here…giving comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

SpReAd the Love will look a little different in 2014.  For one, in addition to donations of blood and food, basically any act of generosity or kindness fits the bill.  Closet cleaning result in bags of outgrown clothes for the thrift store?  It counts.   Driving your carless neighbor to the store?  It counts.  Cleaning windows for shut ins?  You got it…it counts!   Tell us also if someone did something great for you…what seems like a small kindness can have a huge ripple effect.  You’ll be surprised, once you start tallying, how much you are already doing that is making a difference for someone!

How does this work?  STL will be a year long project.  You do what you do and then let us know about it…you can leave a comment here or at Jazz’s (anonymous if you like) or send me an email at: ancientarmitage at gmail dot com with the subject KINDNESS and I will keep your name and address strictly confidential if you prefer.  We’ll keep a log of all the goodness and tally it up.  Here’s the really great part…an anonymous third collaboRAtor has pledged to donate £1 to Armitage’s Just Giving Charities for each kindness tallied between now and the end of February (to a £200 max)!

Let’s SpReAd some Love!!


Graphic by GisbornesBoy

inter alia: “…be willingly good, extra good…” – Richard Armitage

I was searching around for this quote today – I knew it was from one of the letters Richard Armitage has written to fans over the years, but I couldn’t remember where they were located until a little birdie (Hi birdie!) reminded me that they are at archived at This quote comes from the closing remarks of the message dated December 24, 2011, and it has always spoken to me about the generous nature that seems an integral part of Richard Armitage.  This time of year, it becomes particularly meaningful.

I’ve really wanted to be able to post more lately, but as any slave to the academic calendar will tell you, November is crunch time.  The semester is winding to a close, work to be graded is piling up, and students can taste the end on the tips of their tongues.  Professional duties are looming, but more importantly for me,  November is also the kick off to my mission work season.  For the past several years, I’ve coordinated a pizza sale with K-6th grade youth at my church.

Pizza number 176...

Pizza number 176…

We – when I say “we” I mean me, a handful of parents and about 15 kids ranging from 4-12 years old – get together to form a pizza assembly line.  This year we had a total of 200 pizzas to make.  We did it in a little under two hours and no one ended up with pizza sauce in their hair – a minor miracle considering events of past years.  The profits we make from the pizzas are donated wholly to support a local Adopt-a-Family program for the Christmas holiday.  We are assigned a family via a local agency and receive gift buying guidelines and a list of desired items provided by the family.  Sometimes the lists have been something of a challenge, but I was really struck by the list I received yesterday:
adopt a familyNothing extravagant, nothing exotic.  My own children are asking for WiiU’s and Ninendo 3DS’s for Christmas (the jury is still out on this BTW).  This parent is hoping to have diapers for an infant.  This puts cutting onions and wrangling cheese-throwing kids into perspective for me.  By spending a couple of days peddling pizzas, we can make a real difference in the life of this family.

Sometimes just a little respite from struggling can make an enormous impact.  I know, I’ve been there.  I could be there again.  Anyone could.  This is one of the reasons I continue to be enamored of Richard Armitage.  He’s not just a handsome face, or a talented actor.  He really seems to be the genuine article – a person with a kind and generous soul who seeks to give back to those in need – whether it’s through his JustGiving Charities or efforts to raise relief funds after a natural disaster

Relief efforts after Christchurch

Raising funds

Or exhorting his fans to be “…willingly good, extra good…”  I’m going to continue to work on this – doing good works doesn’t always mean huge monetary donations or grand gestures.  I really believe that sometimes we can make a difference through RAndom acts of kindness that have a potential to ripple forward.

There are opportunities all around us…don’t forget the upcoming Silent Auction at I Want to be a Pin Up, and watch this space after the new year for a chance to pool our efforts in this regard.