“A horse! A horse!” (I’ll bet you know the rest Richard Armitage…)

The spring semester is in full swing and after a brief hiatus, I’m back in Rome again…HBO’s Rome, that is.  I suppose it’s not surprising that I’m veering toward things Roman.  Res Romani Equites as it happens.

The equestrian statue…namely, a general or other prominent person ahorse, can be found in many ancient cultures, but it became a characteristically Roman thing.  The Romans, in all of their militaristic showmanship, really loved the commemorative life sized equestrian statue…a pedestrian strolling through the ancient Roman forum would have passed any number of them.

This pair depicting the proconsul Marcus Nonius Balbus, was found in prominent position in the forum of the seaside resort of Herculaneum which was buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79AD.  The cities of Vesuvius yielded a number of well preserved examples of one the Roman’s favorite forms of public display…but all in marble.  Marble statues are nice, but the cream of the crop equestrian statues in Rome, depicting victorious generals and conquering emperors, would certainly have been cast in beautiful gleaming bronze.

The problem with bronze is that nobody following the Romans chose pagan equestrian statues over Christian cannon balls and bullets.  In fact, later inhabitants of previously Roman territories were so diligent in melting these statues down, that only a single one remains…

Marcus Aurelius Ahorse Capitoline Museum - Rome

Marcus Aurelius Ahorse
Capitoline Museum – Rome

Most scholars agree that this bronze escaped the melting pot because it was originally mis-attributed as a sculpture of the 4th century emperor Constantine who was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity.   It really is a beautiful example of Roman bronzework and of the interest they had in displaying imperial power.  The bits of the horse’s face that are free of patina give a hint at how stunning pieces like this would have looked when gleaming in the Roman sunlight.

Given Richard Armitage’s well established affinity to a number of res Romani, it stands to reason that he could give a credible showing in this beloved Roman genre, and sure enough,

gisborne equestrian 1

he nails the overall equestrian stance here as Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood S2 Ep10, and a close up reveals that he’s got the imperial gravitas under control as well.


Fast forward a few years and here he is again…as a king this time…once again owning the equestrian look:


I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that he’s cheating a bit since he’s using stirrups where the Roman equestrians are clearly without them. (Much more challenging to keep one’s seat and control ones mount without stirrups – they are not thought to have arrived in Europe until the Middle Ages).  

Speaking of the Middle Ages, I’m anticipating an impressive addition to the equestrian corpus once Raymond de Merville arrives on the scene.


Methinks I spy a stirrup off the left gauntlet…

Saddle Up Armitageworld!

Sometimes I REALLY wish I could say what I’m thinking Richard Armitage!

But I can’t…at least not out loud.  I’m in this position a lot as I carefully navigate my way as an intermediary between faculty and administration in budget infested waters…discretion is the better part of not being pushed out of the boat.  This week though, a stunningly funny example came up in the discussion forum of an online section of my ROME movie class.Students were instructed to comment on the charcterizations of the various female personalities of ROME..what roles did they play in public and in private?  How does the series characterization differ from what historical sources tell us?  Pretty standard fare…pretty predictable range of responses until I got to this one:

“In the series it seems that the main women characters talk with a British accent. The accent isn’t historically accurate and misrepresents where the women are located.”

Say what now?!

Say what now?!

I read it a few more times to make sure it said what I thought it said and then I laughed as I copied it, name redacted for protection of the foolish, to some of my colleagues as a small dose of humor.  As I sat and tried to decide how to respond, my first inclination was to be snippily literal and reply:

Verum est , quod Romani non Britannum loquantur . Effectrix cogito , in societate BBC HBO, iudicavi mittere in Latin Edition quia pauci sic miserabiliter amplius loqui Latine . Datum est conflatio molem in Britannia Britannorum consilium ut Latine loqui *non* poposcit . In locis serie litterarum quoque notandum est, quod Graece * non * et forsitan loquitur Scotica Britannum accentus quoque!

Subtitle: It is true in that the Romans did not speak English. I’m thinking that the producers, the BBC in partnership with HBO, made the decision to shoot the series in English since so lamentably few people speak Latin anymore. Given that the bulk of the cast is British the decision was made to *not* speak Latin with British accents. At points during the series, we should note that the characters are also *not* speaking Greek and probably Gaelic with British accents too!

I know…it IS snarky in the extreme, but some days, the level of dumbassery thrown at me is overwhelming and I crack.  This wasn’t one of those days though…I thought about it and decided that the inevitable fallout wasn’t worth the momentary satisfaction.  It was too good not to share though.

The whole thing made me think how tedious it is to have to censor myself all the time.  Don’t get me wrong.  I  have no inclination to run around trying to be extra offensive to everyone I meet, but from time to time, it would be refreshing to just say, “WTF are you talking about?!”in response to some fresh weirdness.

Oops!  Did I say that out loud?! Source

Oops! Did I say that out loud?!

Spinning it out, I wondered how challenging it might be to monitor myself if more than a few people at a time were actually paying attention.  No doubt one of the tricks of the celebrity trade…I have to admit though, I’m do love it when his filter slips from time to time 🙂

QUO VADIS Richard Armitage?

The longer Richard Armitage makes me wait to hear what his next project will, the less able I am to resist indulging in wild flights of fancy on the subject.   People have been throwing about all sorts of roles that Richard Armitage is rumored to be contender for, or that they would love to see him do…from comic book heroes to a charming, gentlemanly vampire (?) and more.  I thought that I might as well throw my hat into the ring with some ancient world possibilities.

The solid commercial (if not always critical) success of projects like Gladiator, Troy, Rome and Spartacus in the past 15 years, in addition to the plethora of “sword and sandal” epics in the  fifties and sixties, lends credence to the notion that films and television series set in the ancient world have wide popular appeal.  This week I was idly wondering what roles from the ancient world I’d like to see my fave appear in, which led me to taking a look around to see what stories are in the works.  A few mouse clicks, and what do I find but a section on the novelist Steven Saylor’s website that talks about the very thing.  Trawling around there, this caught my eye…

Hmmm, "What current actor could match the sheer screen presence of Charlton Heston in the campy but classic The Ten Commandments?"  I wonder?????

Hmmm, “What current actor could match the sheer screen presence of Charlton Heston in the campy but classic The Ten Commandments?” I wonder?????

I was happily contemplating Richard Armitage as Moses going to to toe with, an as yet uncast, Ramses, wooing Nefertari,  rescuing the daughters of Jethro, burning bushes, Plagues of Egypt, Exo….wait a minute – what’s that?


– Ergh – Foiled again!

It was great while it lasted!   I am not one to be defeated that easily, so my hunt continued and I saw any number of things that looked sort of interesting (and a few are actually in some degree of development).   Last week Perry and I were considering a version of the Roman poet Vergil’s epic tale of Aeneas, the progenitor of the Roman race – as far as I can find, this story has never been made for film or TV.    There’s been scuttlebutt for years about a feature film continuation of the HBO series Rome (please, please, please), and latent talk of a major motion picture version of Homer’s Odyssey.   My favorite prospect at the moment is this one:

It's not just TV, it's HBO!

It’s not just TV, it’s HBO!

Remakes seem to be the name of the game these days, and this one could be great.  If you’ve not seen I, Claudius, a 1976 BBC series based on the Robert Graves novel by the same name, you should.  The production value is dated now,  but it is a masterpiece on a number of levels…not to mention a who’s who of British stage and screen in the 1970’s.  The title role of the emperor Claudius was a breakout role for Derek Jacobi – that’s Sir Derek Jacobi these days.  I would be hugely interested to see what Richard Armitage would do with Claudius (or Augustus, or Tiberius, or…)  Yes, it is TV, but recent HBO efforts have definitely had cinematic qualities.  HBO and the BBC have partnered successfully before, and have garnered great casts in memorable roles.

Yes, yes, you do the, "I'd like to tell you, but - " routine very well, however...

Yes, yes, you do the, “I’d like to tell you, but – ” routine very well, however…

It certainly is fun to consider what if, but in the land of reality, please Mr. Armitage, what’s next?  I know you wouldn’t want my death on your conscience, and the suspense is KILLING me!