In Bologna’s Civic Art Museums I saw a painting by Pelagio Palagi showing Leonidas II sending Cleombrotus (also II as it turned out) into exile. And there’s nothing I like as much as a classical subject I haven’t heard about.

Turns out Cleombrotus was a son-in-law of Leonidas, king of Sparta. As Sparta has two kings Cleombrotus made nice with his Leonidas’ co-ruler, Agis IV and allied ephors (magistrates), and took over Leonidas’ throne when Leonidas was exiled.

Leonidas left, taking Chilonides, his daughter and Cleombrotus’ wife with him.

And then he came back next year, killed Agis, appointed new magistrates and exiled Cleombrotus. That’s the moment we see in the painting below (note Zeus doing a Batu Khan impersonation in the background).

And off long-suffering Chilonides went into exile again, this time with her husband and two sons. There’s no story of her ever returning to Sparta and it is likely that she didn’t live long enough, since all we know is that her grandson had to come back from exile to take over Spartan throne almost sixty years later. I hope she really liked Alexandria or wherever it is she actually lived all those years.

About knights…


Presentation of Jacopo Beccucci to Mary and baby Jesus,  1300-1349

Look at Jacopo Beccucci’s eyes. He obviously loves Mary and Mary and baby Jesus love him back. No, I mean – look at them. Here’s a bigger version from Wikipedia.

I obviously know nothing about Jacopo Beccucci, but I’m guessing that unless he was unusually lucky no one loved him the way we today expect to be loved.

Consider the best case scenario – His wet nurse cared, but he’d have been parted from her at age two or so. His nanny was proud of the work she did and liked him, but nannies are not fonts of parental love. His parents were fond and proud of him and possibly saw him every day. His wife liked and respected him and was happy with the choice her parents made for her. His friends and his suzerain probably valued and respected him. His children admired him. His mistress depended on his largesse, considered him sexy (this is my best-case scenario, yes, besides look at that guy) and liked him as a person. Maybe she even loved him, insofar as a dependent person can.

But Jesus and Mary? They loved him. Just him – for who he was, not for his position, his usefulness, his money or his fighting prowess. They’d love him even if he was too sick to fight, weak, defeated, powerless… And he loved them without fearing that they will become sick or die or abandon him. And he could talk about his love to anyone, because everyone, from his wife to St. George, fully approved.

Everybody wants to love somebody. It’s a need. And loving somebody who freely chooses to love one back in a socially-sanctioned accepted way without fearing for their well-being is also a need. And the easiest way to achieve this if you are your function and the concept of individualism is 20 or so generations away is personal devotion to Mary or a saint.


And on the same topic of knights and relationships – there’s the relationship of fealty. We would consider anyone that’s never had a parent, a long-term lover, a friend in their life somewhat sad and deprived of something important. We might not think the same about someone that lacks kids (ok, I would, but silently), or a favorite football team, a god, a fatherland, but we can see that those relationships are important, enriching, life-shaping for many people.

We definitely would not think it sad that someone lacks a suzerain, and yet it used to be a relationship as or more important than marriage. There are some people out there to whom it probably still is. Isn’t it strange – all those relationships that are so important, so defining for people who change them, and we feel their lack as little as we feel the lack of a tail?

Sell Art Online