The Roman salute (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. The former 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 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 was further developed in other French 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 film called Cabiria based upon 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. The gesture and its variations continue to be used in neo-fascist contexts.
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... In the 1951 film Quo Vadis, Nero's repeated use of the salute at mass rallies explicitly presents the Roman Empire as a Fascist military state ... Not until Gladiator did the Roman epic return to the cinema ... In this movie, the salute is notably absent in most scenes, for example when Commodus enters Rome or when the Senate salutes the Emperor by head-bowing ...
... See also Roman salute The oral greeting Heil became popular in the pan-German movement around 1900 ... The salute gesture is widely believed to be based on an ancient Roman custom ... However, no surviving Roman work of art depicts it, nor does any extant Roman text describe it ...