After bearing witness to the latest tiny tornado in the Richard Armitage Twitterverse, I’ve been reflecting a bit on Twitter.  (If you are not aware of the storm in question, don’t fret – given the lay of the land – another one will no doubt emerge.)  I’ve long wondered exactly what the point of Twitter is, what role it plays.  It’s difficult enough to have any kind of civil exchange on social media (98% of the reason why I’ve taken a hiatus from my personal Facebook feed.)  The 140 character limit of Twitter seriously impedes any kind of real discussion, and potentially encourages incendiary exchanges with the extensive use of cryptic emojis and abbreviations.   Clearly, it’s not terribly conducive to conversation beyond quips.  As I was watching the opening credits of HBO’s ROME in class the other night, an apt comparison hit me…

Here a series of Roman artworks and collected pieces of graffiti are animated and run across the walls as the credits roll.  Behind them the viewer also sees all kinds of static writing on the walls of the city.  Graffiti writing seems to have been a very common part of Roman life, and it is tremendously interesting to archaeologists and historians because it provides a view into a segment of life that is not well represented by the usual suspects of ancient writers.  With the graffiti, we can see what the man on the street was up to – literally!  Unfortunately, due to the nature of the evidence – much of it scratched or painted on exterior plaster wall surfaces – almost none of it survives in normal contexts.  However,  thanks (once again) to the 79 A.D. eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, a compelling body of Roman epigraphy has been preserved.

Ancient graffiti Source

Ancient graffiti

The graffiti of Pompeii and Herculaneum provide a fascinating, somewhat shocking, window into daily life among the Romans.  Ranging from semi official political campaign ads to “status updates” to the ancient equivalent of bathroom stall endorsements, Roman graffiti really does seem to function in way very similar to a contemporary social media platform like Twitter.  Here are just examples:

Checking in…

checking in

Lovers and Lovelorn

lovers and lovelorn

at the BIG brothel (that is, there were many)

at the brothel

Waiting at the courthouse…


Political endorsements


Political endorsements?

dubious endorsements


These are just a few of the thousands that have been and continue to be recorded, and while I am sure that a particularly vivid or large graffito would have drawn wide notice (as was the intent)

"Romans go home" scene from Monty Python's Life of Brian

“Romans go home” scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian

I have never read about a serious fracas that was caused by something as transient as a wall scribble. Since walls were often re-plastered or re-painted, here today, gone tomorrow was the rule of the day for graffiti – strikingly similar to a certain Twitter stream right?  When push comes to shove,  it seems that in a practical sense, Twitter serves basically the same function as graffiti – without the threat of a fine for vandalism!   🙂


I think my favorite piece of Roman graffiti by far,  is a sentiment which shows up at several locations around Pompeii and Herculaneum and reads something like:

I wonder, O, wall, that you have not fallen in ruins from supporting the inanities of so many scribblers.

It would be remarkably easy to adapt this to a great deal of what goes on on Twitter on any given day.

I can’t even tell you…

how relieved I am that Richard Armitage has hit the 100,000 Twitter follower milestone…

twitter 100k

and without any assistance from me.  



It’s not that I didn’t think it would happen, or that I didn’t want it to happen, but I’ve drawn a line in the sand about joining Twitter.

As much as I’ve enjoyed (second hand) things like bacon beards and thespian therapeutics…

early twitter pics

or the crowning of new royalty…

The King Under the Mountain is dead.  Long live the Selfie King!

The King Under the Mountain is dead. Long live the Selfie King!

I have been loath to give ground on my self imposed Twitter ban – even for Richard Armitage goodies.  However, I was a little concerned about the follower count.  I mean after 2013 when I never found time to vote – EVEN ONCE – in the Anglophenia Fan Favorite Poll and this happened:

.9%  ArgHHHH!!  I'm so sorry I didn't vote!

.9% ArgHHHH!! I’m so sorry I didn’t vote!

I didn’t want to be the holdout standing between Richard Armitage and 100K followers in the Twitterverse.  I needn’t have worried…since rolling over the milestone mark this weekend, @RCArmitage has gained an extra K of Tweeps.

What a relief – my Twitter chastity is safe!!

Um, Hi! Remember me?

I’m the person who used to find time to blog about the various and sundry concerning Richard Armitage a few times a week.  Note to self – in future, avoid starting new parallel job while up to neck in work with existing job.  Never fear,  it will take me a few more weeks to even things out to level, but I’ll be back at full force soon.  In the meantime,  I’ve at least been able to lurk around here and there enough to have seen a whole slew of baguette puns centering around the latest from the newly crowned “Selfie King.”

I've got nothing that isn't half baked...

I’ve got nothing that isn’t half baked…mais ce sont quelques belles baguettes monsieur!

It kind of makes me wish that Richard Armitage could have a trip to Athens on deck so we might get to see something along the lines of this in a future tweet…

See - I even gave him a handy fig leaf just in case...    :D   (I'm sorry Apollo Belvedere!!)

See – I even gave him a handy fig leaf just in case… 😀  (I’m sorry Apollo Belvedere!!)

**In case you’re wondering, I have very little control over where my mind wanders on any given day…who knows what tomorrow might conjure!  😉  **





Did you say “Oedipus” Richard Armitage?!

He did!!  .…during the #AskArmitage Twitter Q&A Richard Armitage said,

Thanks to Servetus for allowing me to keep my Twitter virginity by supplying me with pertinent screen caps...

Thanks to Servetus for allowing me to keep my Twitter virginity by supplying me with pertinent screen caps…

There it is…Right there in black and white.  A tweet that has had me wriggling in Classics nerd delight since last week.  (So much so that I will overlook the fact that Mr. Armitage was shockingly non specific in his verbiage given that there are numerous extant variations on the Oedipal theme.)   I imagine that it’s safe to assume that he’s referring to the iconic Oedipus the King by Sophocles.  I like this play a lot.  In fact, it is the second Greek tragedy that I read as an undergraduate, but the first one that I really comprehended in any meaningful way.  (I will accept pats on the back for continuing in the field after my first exposure to Greek tragedy in the form of Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound for an Intro to Honors course during my first semester at college.)


I just can’t do it.  There isn’t really a need to spoiler alert a 2500 year old play is there?  In any case,  foreknowledge of the details of the Oedipus myth was an important part of the interplay between the unfolding drama and the audience.  At one point, EVERYBODY, including the audience, knows the great secret.  EVERYBODY but Oedipus that is.

Solving the Riddle of the Sphinx... Source

Solving the Riddle of the Sphinx…

Sophocles’ Oedipus is perhaps the archetypal tragic hero.  In solving the Sphinx’s riddle and saving Thebes, he proved himself a hero, achieved excellence (arete) and seems to have been successful at warding off the trap of hubris after he was made King of Thebes.  In these qualities, he is a much less detestable character than say,  Jason with his general ineptitude, or Pentheus with his aggressive arrogance.  No, as the story opens, we are introduced to Oedipus as a king who is greatly troubled by the hard times that have come upon his people.  A king who vows to stop at nothing to seek out the truth and lift the curse,  promising punishment for the guilty party.

Translation by David Grene Source

Translation by David Grene

Yet he is far from perfect.  He lashes out repeatedly at people who are wholly innocent or worse, trying to save him from the horror of the truth.  The blind seer Tiresias who knows the truth but refuses to tell it, his brother-in-law Creon who is accused of colluding with Tiresias to take the throne for himself, and even his wife Jocasta who he accuses of being mercenary when she, having figured out the truth, begs him to stop his questioning, for his own sake:

oedipus line2

Translation by David Grene

In the end it is revealed that Oedipus’ tragic hubris took place long before, when as a young man, he sought to avoid the fate foretold to him by the oracle of Apollo at Delphi.  This notion of the immutable nature of fate loomed very large in Greek tragedy, and those who tried to escape fate usually suffered greatly for it…Oedipus is no exception.

Another element that really jumps out at me throughout this play is the imagery of blindness.  It is the blind seer Tiresias who first “sees” who Oedipus is….and as Oedipus slowly comes to know the truth he reflects that the blind seer did “have eyes.”  It is the final scene though, when Oedipus emerges on stage, blinded, but finally fully aware of the truth, that is the height of tragic drama:

Translation by David Grene

Translation by David Grene

Yep…this play has lost none of it’s power in the millenia since it was first written for the Greek stage.  I would LOVE to see Richard Armitage in the title role.  To see him work through all of that pathos.  To see him partner again with Yael Farber, who has a long standing interest in Classical tragedy…maybe even perform it in the open air at the ancient Theater of Epidauros?

Festival Epidauros Source

Epidauros Festival

I would pay my eye teeth to see that!

(Pun totally intended!!)