Roman salute  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Roman salute (Saluto Romano) is a salute in which the arm is held out forward straight, with palm down, and fingers touching. In some versions the arm is raised upward at an angle, in others it is held out parallel to the ground. It is a well known symbol of fascism that is commonly perceived to be based on a custom in ancient Rome. However, no Roman text gives this description and the Roman works of art that display salutational gestures bear little resemblance to the modern salute.

Jacques-Louis David's painting The Oath of the Horatii (1784) provided the starting point for the gesture that became later known as the Roman Salute. The gesture and its identification with Roman culture was further developed in other French neoclassic artworks. This was further manifested in popular culture during the late 19th and early 20th century in plays and films that portrayed the salute as an ancient Roman custom. It included a film called Cabiria that is a based on a screenplay by the Italian nationalist Gabriele d'Annunzio. In 1919, d'Annunzio adopted the cinematographically depicted salute as a neo-imperial ritual when he led the occupation of Fiume.

Through d'Annunzio's influence, the gesture soon became part of the Italian fascist movement's symbolic repertoire. In 1923 the salute was gradually adopted by the Italian Fascist regime. It was made compulsory within the Nazi party in 1926, and adopted by the German state when the Nazis took power in 1933. It was also adopted by other fascist movements.

Since World War II, the salute has been a criminal offense in Germany and Austria. Legal restrictions on its use in Italy are more nuanced, and use there has generated controversy. It had been used in films to depict Ancient Rome as a proto-fascist state. The gesture and its variations continue to be used in neo-fascist contexts.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Roman salute" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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