Ἐννοσίγαιε & ἵππων τε δμητῆρ: Richard Armitage and Poseidon

“Earth Shaker” and “Tamer of Horses” are two of the most common epithets of the Greek god Poseidon.  Among the first generation of Olympian gods, Poseidon is a brother to the king of the gods, Zeus.  When he, Zeus and their other brother Hades drew lots to divvy up the cosmos, Poseidon drew the sea.


This spectacular, bronze (a bit over life size at 6’10” – 209cm) of a bearded male god dating to around 460 BC is an excellent example of the early Classical “Severe Style.”  Debate on his identity has raged since the late 1920’s when he was discovered on the sea bed off the coast of Cape Artemision.  The position of his left hand indicates that he would have originally held something, but whether that something was a thunderbolt of Zeus or a trident of Poseidon is lost to time.  The debate rages on, but he is quite commonly identified as a Poseidon simply because he was found in the sea.

Mentions of the name Poseidon exist as early as the late Bronze Age in the Linear B texts of the Mycenaean Greeks…although the deity seems to have been connected to the underworld rather than the sea.  By the time Greece recovered from its dark age, Poseidon had emerged as a full fledged sea god of great importance to the resurgent maritime culture of the Greeks who prayed to him to watch over them at sea.  He was the patron divinity of numerous Greek city states and was second only to Athena in importance in Athens as a civic deity.  The “earth shaker” was ever present in a region regularly touched by earthquakes.  I’ve always found it rather interesting that this aquatic god was also commonly associated with something so connected to the land as horses.  The “tamer of horses,” then taught that skill to mankind.

I think Poseidon may be the only Olympian I’ve left untouched after two years – not surprising that I struggled to find some usable parallels between the god of the sea and the dude who dislikes deep water!  But then lo and behold, along came Pilgrimage…which appears to be a kind of medieval road trip movie tracing the journey to carry a holy relic from Ireland to Rome.

Any way you slice it, a medieval journey from Ireland to anywhere in continental Europe required crossing water, and, where there are swords in medieval Europe, there are usually horses, so Poseidon nicely fits the bill for a little pagan production blessing…call it “covering all the bases”  🙂

It certainly looks as if at least part of the Pilgrimage cast is getting ready to get wet….

Hard to say right now if Richard Armitage will be on the boat, but I’m just guessing the water crossing will not be a calm one. (that would be kind of boring wouldn’t it?)  I think an homage to the god of the sea is well in order to ward of monk tossing waves.  As to the “tamer of horses”?   I’d bet there’ll be some horse “taming” going on in this film as well…it’s an awfully long walk across Europe after all!

There's not a horse scene in The Red Dragon is there?

There’s not a horse scene in The Red Dragon is there?

Where’s the Ἐννοσίγαιος you ask?  I really hope there’s no sign of the “earth shaker” personality of Poseidon in the near future!


Guy of Gisborne and Hades: Coercive Courtships

Have you ever thought that Richard Armitage’s potential as an onscreen lover has been grossly under utilized thus far in his career?  That idea must be very active in my subconscious since I seem to keep gravitating to it as I seek to connect his pantheon of characters to the classical tradition.  Today’s association is a variation on a familiar theme.

I imagine that most people’s first thought of the god Hades is not that of a “love connection,” but oh yes, that’s where I’m goin’. Hades, along with Zeus and Poseidon, was one of the elder generation of Olympian gods – offspring of the Titans Cronos and Rhea.   When the Olympians defeated the Titans and became the reigning champ deities on the earth, the three brothers drew lots to determine how they would divvy up the world.   Zeus got the earth and sky, Poseidon the sea, and Hades the underworld.  Apparently grumbling ensued as Hades expressed his dissatisfaction at the turnout before leaving for his new kingdom in a huff.  Zeus shrugged saying something like, “I don’t know what his problem is, his kingdom is the biggest since he gets everyone eventually!”

Hades enthroned

Hades enthroned

It’s probably not surprising that Hades is not one of the best represented gods within the Greek pantheon.  Although there is no inherent sense of evil or malevolence associated with the god Hades or the Greek Underworld – also referred to as Hades, death and gods of it are not the most popular mythological topics.  Generally, Hades is depicted as glum and gloomy…a perfect match to his environment.

Curiously, one of the most famous stories associated with him has to do with his selection of a bride.  As the god of the Underworld, Hades didn’t have a lot of opportunity to meet women, so he asked his brother Zeus to give him a bride from among Zeus’ many daughters.  Zeus decided on Persephone, his daughter by the grain goddess Demeter (another of his sisters – incest was definitely not a problem for Zeus), but since he knew Demeter would object to the match, he gave Hades the nod to go ahead and take Persephone by force.

Abduction of Persephone from the Tomb of Persephone at Vergina

Abduction of Persephone from the Tomb of Persephone at Vergina

Persephone was innocently picking flowers in a meadow when the ground split open and Hade’s chariot sped out.  The image above shows the moment when Hades scooped Persephone up to carry her away.  This moment is also depicted in magnificent baroque glory by the Italian sculptor Bernini.

Abduction of Proserpina (Persephone) by Bernini

Abduction of Proserpina (Persephone) by Bernini

Hard to believe that's marble isn't it?!

Hard to believe that’s marble isn’t it?!

Hades carried Persephone with him to the Underworld, with every intention of making her his queen – actually, he was a pretty good catch in the eligibility department – but he also knew that she would rather not be there and that her mother would doubtlessly come to look for her.  As a result, he needed to find a way to make sure she would stay with him permanently.  While she was with him, he was solicitous and kind to her, doted on her actually, but she continued to spurn his gifts until one day when her hunger got the best of her.  Persephone finally accepted his gift of a pomegranate and ate six seeds before she realized the consequences.

Hades courts Persephone

Hades courts Persephone with food and drink

When Demeter eventually convinced Zeus into forcing Hades to return Persephone to her, Hades played his trump card.  Demeter could take her daughter back for part of the year, but since Persephone had consumed food (six pomegranate seeds) in the Underworld, she was required to spend six months of the year in Hades with him, as his queen.  Courtship complete.

A downright saturnine looking Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage) woos a reluctant Marian (Lucy Griffiths) with gifts

A downright saturnine looking Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage) woos a reluctant Marian (Lucy Griffiths) with gifts
Image Courtesy of http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

Guy of Gisborne’s courtship of Marian in Robin Hood struck me as equally coercive.  Despite the fact that she persistently resists his advances, he continues to pursue her – determined to make her his own.  Like Hades, Guy is an eligible match for Marian in terms of fortune and social position, but like Persephone, Marian is not convinced.

Marian rebuffs Guy yet again...

Marian rebuffs Guy yet again…
Image Courtesy of http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

Despite the fact that she is physically “stirred by him” as Guy boasts to Robin in S1.8, Guy has his work cut out for him in making her his wife.  He tries just about everything, including manipulating her affection for her father, before finally telling the Sheriff (Keith Allen) that he will take her by force in the final episode of S2 – what Hades had done from the start.  Ultimately, while Hades’ coercive courtship was at least partially successful, Guy’s is an utter failure, leading to Marian’s death and his own brush with madness.  Kind of makes me wonder about that whole “if at first you don’t succeed” strategy when it comes to courtship.

**update…not a part of the Hades – Guy discussion, but too cool not to use here

Thorin and Bilbo as Hades and Persephone  By Ewelock at Deviant Art

Thorin and Bilbo as Hades and Persephone
By Ewelock at Deviant Art