The Roman salute (Italian: saluto romano) is a gesture 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. In contemporary times, the former is widely considered a 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 Roman 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 were further developed in other neoclassic artworks. This was further elaborated upon in popular culture during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in plays and films that portrayed the salute as an ancient Roman custom. These included a 1914 Italian film called Cabiria based upon a screenplay by the nationalist poet 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 rising Italian Fascist movement's symbolic repertoire. In 1923 the salute was gradually adopted by the Italian Fascist regime. It was then adopted and made compulsory within the Nazi party in 1926, and gained nationwide prominence in the German state when the Nazis took power in 1933. It was also adopted by other fascist movements.
Since World War II, the Nazi variant has been a criminal offence in Germany and Austria. Legal restrictions on its use in Italy are more nuanced, and use there has generated controversy. The gesture and its variations continue to be used in neo-fascist contexts.
- More information on this topic is available at [ Wikipedia:Roman_salute ]