Roman salute

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Fascist Culture

Relief from the Trajan’ column showing viewers raising their hands in a gesture of greeting in honour of the chosen emperor.
Another example from Trajan's column. There hundred of similar examples not just on Trajan's column, but in statues, frescos, base-reliefs and other art in ancient Roman archeology throughout the Mediterranean area.

The Roman salute is derived from ancient Rome. (Often considered the well-spring of fascism, althoughfascism is actually older) The Roman salute (Italian: saluto romano) is a gesture in which the right arm is held out forward straight, with palm down. Sometimes the arm is raised upward at an angle, sometimes it is held out parallel to the ground.


This gesture is probably associated with the solar cult. By extending the hand up, homage was paid to the sun god. In Ancient Rome, the right hand (called dexteraor dextra) was usually used as a symbol of trust, friendship and loyalty, or as a mere greeting (an empty hand was supposed to be proof that you don’t have a weapon). For example, Cicero mentions that Octavian was swearing allegiance to his adopted father Julius Caesar with his right hand outstretched.

We do not know whether Octavian’s specific gesture already had its roots in tradition or whether it was Octavian’s private invention during his contio. Certain, however, is the unflattering assessment of the person of Gaius Octavian by Cicero.

Political Correctness

Statue of Octavian from Prima Porta.

The judeo-Marxists and others have made very broad attempts to seperate fascism from this ancient salute by claiming something, anything really, else was happening. For example, attempting to claim that Mussolini based the Salute on a painting in spite of him very specifically stating otherwise, that he hoped to literally re-create ancient Rome.

Buildings and other ancient Roman structures (e.g., Arch of Titus, Arch of Constantine I, Trajan’s Column, and others) commemorating the Roman military victories are the best-known examples showing the Roman salute. Three such images were analyzed in Trajan’s Column. On “Table 99” six spectators raise their right hands up saluting in honour of Trajan. On “Table 167” three Dacians stretch their hands towards the emperor in salute. On “Tables 122-123” the emperor on horseback is greeted by a squad of legionaires. There are many other examples of the salute very clearly being used, in Roman art, created by Romans.

Forms of the Gesture

Nowadays, both movement leaders and listeners perform salutes. In Rome (based on preserved images), usually, rulers or important personalities make the gesture. This sign was a symbol of power, although it sometimes also meant greeting and kindness. Four forms of gesture or behavior were used in Rome:

adlocutio – greeting the leader (usually the emperor) to his army and soldiers to the leader;

acclamatio – a public sign of approval or disapproval, contentment or dissatisfaction etc., in the form of shouts. Depending on the event, various slogans were shouted: during the wedding Io Hymen, Hymenaee or Talassio; on triumphs Io triumphe, Io triumphe; in turn speakers were awarded the terms Bene et praeclare, Belle et festive, Non potest melius;

adventus – the ceremony of welcoming the emperor to the city (usually Rome) either during the ongoing conflict or after its end;

profectio – a farewell ceremony when leaving the city of consul (republic) or emperor (imperial times).

An example of Roman salute as a symbol of imperial power is the statue “Augustus of Prima Porta”.[1]

It was used in Ancient Rome and therefore used by Italian fascists and later by other fascist movements more generally, including by National Socialists (German salute). In a interview in 1967 Oswald Mosley, former leader of the British Union of Fascists, called the salute, the European salute and was used as a reaction against the clenched fist salute that was used by the Communist International.[2]

In art

Painted in 1784, the "Oath of the Horatii" by Jacques-Louis David led to the popularization of the Roman salute.
Hundreds of Roman salutes (saluti romani)[3] on 7 January 2024 in Rome[4]

According to a study for The Distribution of the Eagle Standards, by J-L David, the gesture with Roman republican culture gained prominence in 18th century France with revolutionary and anti-monarchist movements of the era. Several paintings in the Neoclassical style depict Roman heroes adopting variants of the gesture. The most famous and influential of these is Jacques-Louis David's painting The Oath of the Horatii (1784), which illustrates a pledge of loyalty to the Roman republic.

After the French Revolution of 1789, David was commissioned to depict the formation of the revolutionary government in a similar style. In the Tennis Court Oath (1792) the National Assembly are all depicted with their arms outstretched as they swear to create a new constitution. After the republican government was replaced by Napoleon's imperial régime, David further deployed the gesture in images of Napoleon receiving the acclamation and loyalty of his soldiers. These consciously imitated ancient Roman ad locutio scenes. The most important of these paintings is The Distribution of the Eagle Standards (1810).

As the founder of the French academic school of art, David was imitated by many painters during the 19th century, who regularly depicted the straight-arm gesture in scenes of Roman imperial history.

From oath to salute

A picture from the Illustrated Exhibitor (1852) depicting the installation of an medieval German king is well known. This and other early images of the gesture are strictly speaking salutes, and most depict the swearing of oaths. It was with this function, al9ng with George Washington's habit of throwing Romans, that the Bellamy salute was adopted in the United States in 1892 as part of the Pledge of Allegiance, a Fascist ritual.

It is unclear precisely when the oath gesture became transformed into a quasi-military salute, though it appears in this role in some Davidian paintings, most famously Jean-Léon Gérôme's popular Ave Caesar! Morituri te salutant (Hail Caesar! They Who Are About to Die Salute You) of 1859. At the same time research by Augustin Thierry into the rituals of Gallic and Germanic tribes led to the claim that such gestures were associated with ancient "Aryan" peoples for whom monarchy was said to be defined more by charismatic prowess than simple inheritance.

Nordic ideology, which was later embraced by the National Socialists, claimed that the leading classes of ancient Greek and Roman culture had originated among Germanic peoples, who had migrated south. In consequence it was argued that the gesture was Nordic in origin, expressive of the free acclamation of a leader.

By the end of the 19th century, the gesture was recognised as a symbol of communal acclamation, appropriate as a sign of allegiance to be used in several mass movements. A version was adopted as the Olympic salute, with arms raised to the side of the body, as in The Oath of the Horatii. The gesture was also portrayed as a salute in a number of early films about ancient Rome, such as Ben Hur (1907), Nerone (1908), Spartaco (1914) and Cabiria (1914). The Italian fascist writer and adventurer Gabriele D'Annunzio, who had scripted Cabiria, used the salute with a neo-Imperial meaning when he liberated Rijeka in 1919.

It was later taken up by the Italian fascist party to symbolise their revitalised Italy on the model of ancient Rome. In the Italian version the arm was typically raised quite high above the shoulder with the palm bent outwards, in a rhetorical manner similar to Roman imperial statuary. Other fascist groups also adopted versions of the salute, including the German National Socialist Party, in which the arm was raised smartly to the front, at right angles to the chest with the palm turned downwards. In Germany the salute was known as as the Deutscher Gruß (German salute).

Because of the similarity between the Bellamy salute and the National Socialist salute, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Rosenfelt) threw Washington and Bellamy's salute out, and instituted the hand-over-the-heart gesture (a Communist gesture) as the salute to be rendered by civilians during the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem in the United States, instead of the Bellamy salute. This was done when Congress officially adopted the Flag Code on 22 June 1942.

A similar form of an elevated right arm prevailed among certain Catholic youth organisations in the Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain and Germany, e.g. the salute of the members of the Grail Movement. Their using the Roman salute was however ended in the mid-1930s, as confusion far too often arose over whether their salute form in public was an act of tacit support for Fascist Italy and National Socialist Germany, or not. Anti-clerical left-wing publications often used 1920s and early 1930s pictures of bishops and other clergy saluting these Catholic youth movements with the Roman salute, as to imply a "National Socialist" or "Fascist" orientation of these bishops and priests, or even the Catholic Church in general.

Post-war use

The association with National Socialism has been so strong that the salute has rarely been used by non-National Socialist organizations since the end of World War II. There are several exceptions: in Portugal, Mexico and the Republic of China (Taiwan), the salute is still used during the swearing of oaths in inaugurations.

The salute is also still used by some Palestinian and Arab groups such as Hamas— a use particularly controversial because of the Israeli instigated conflict.

It is also known to be used by the Tamil separatist organization, the LTTE, while saluting their leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

In 2005, Italian footballer Paolo Di Canio created controversy by using the gesture on several occasions to salute hardcore S.S. Lazio fans. Di Canio has also expressed admiration for Mussolini. Good man.

The salute jas also been portrayed in some historical dramas about Rome, such as the 1951 film Quo Vadis and the 1960 film Spartacus. It has been used as such as recently as the 2005 TV series Empire and the HBO TV series Rome.

Authorization 2024 (Italy)

On 18 January 2024, the Roman Court of Cassation, the third and highest instance of Italian jurisdiction, ruled that showing the Roman salute in Italy at commemorative events is largely legitimate and not punishable by law. The court ruled in favour of the accused in a case in which eight Italian fascists were convicted in the second instance for showing the Roman salute. In 2016, they showed the salute at a memorial event in Milan for the slain fascist Sergio Rampelli and were therefore convicted.[5]

Uses in fiction

The salute appears in science fiction dramas, usually to suggest either fascist or imperial Roman characteristics in fictional cultures. The Romulans in the original Star Trek television series (1966–69) are depicted, as their name suggests, as a Roman-like culture. They use an upraised arm, palm down salute in several episodes, such as "The Enterprise Incident".

In the video game, Mega Man X4, the fictional military organization, known as the Repliforce, can be seen giving the Roman salute during the early cinematics of the game.

Further reading

External links


  1. Donald Graeme, Loose Cannons: 101 Myths, Mishaps and Misadventures of Military History, Osprey Publishing, 2009
  2. Oswald Mosley Interview With David Frost (15th Nov 1967)
  3. Hundreds of Roman salutes (saluti romani) on 7 January 2024 in Rome in front of the former MSI headquarters commemorating three young patriots of the Youth Front murdered there in January 1978 during the "Ambush in Acca Larenzia": Franco Bigonzetti, Francesco Ciavatta and Stefano Recchioni. Vincenzo Segneri was wounded, but survived. One of the weapons used in the 1978 ambush by communists, a Skorpion machine gun, was later found in a Red Brigades hideout on Via Dogali in Milan in 1988. Ballistic tests revealed that the same weapon was used in three other Red Brigades murders: that of economist Ezio Tarantelli in 1985, former mayor of Florence Lando Conti in 1986, and Christian Democrat senator Roberto Ruffilli in 1988.
  4. Acca Larentia, centinaia di saluti romani, la Repubblica
  5. Italien erlaubt den römischen Gruß, RP, 19 January 2024