Roman gestures: the adlocutio

Gestures are an efficient means of communicating ideas, especially to a relatively illiterate population. In ancient Rome, gestures often spoke about one’s position or rank in society. One of the most common gestures in the visual language of Rome was the adlocutio, a posture and gesture that indicated the person—male citizens only, of course—was a person with authority giving a speech.

NERONE-RIC_I_491-886135_ADLOCUTIOCoin of Nero with an adlocutio scene

If the man is depicted wearing a toga, he is speaking to his fellow (male) citizens as civic leader – a politician, a magistrate, a lawyer, and/or a rhetorician.

DSCF0423Titus doing the civic adlocutio in the Vatican

If he wears military garb, he is speaking to the soldiers as a commanding officer.

AugustusAugustus doing the military adlocutio in the Vatican

If he’s naked, he’s probably dead, or feeling especially heroic. And Greeky. Not too many Greeky naked lads are shown in the adlocutio pose because giving speeches in the buff is not very Roman thing to do. Not proper Roman, at least. Most adlocutio scenes are decidedly military.

TC-010.jpgTrajan doing the adlocutio before his troops on the Column of Trajan, Rome

The main element of the adlocutio pose is the outstretched right arm. Never the left because the left arm, like being left-handed, is sinister. 😉 The fingers of the right hand can be positioned in a variety of ways as long as the right arm is extended. Meanwhile, the chap’s left hand might busy itself by grabbing a fold of his toga, holding a scroll, grasping a spear, or cradling his military cloak.

Why am I jabbering on about the adlocutio? I’ve commissioned some new amazing artwork for promotional items. In the course of working out the design for Gaius, the artist happened to design our dear Lion of the Lucky Fourth in an adlocutio pose! I geeked out pretty hard over that happy accident.

Here he is in all his adlocutio glory! Of course, he wouldn’t be gulping down wine while addressing his troops, but he’s Gaius, so…

GaiusFront SMALL

And here is the final design for buttons that I’ll be handing out the Europride Convention next month: vino-imbibing Gaius doing the adlocutio and lyre-playing Allerix dressed as Orpheus (inspired by a scene from Book 3).

EPC 2018 button SMALL

Hope to see you in Amsterdam! I’ll have a few paperbacks and handmade bookmarks for cheap, as well as free swag items featuring the new chibi artwork of Gaius & Allerix at my table during the book signing event. If you are attending this fabulous convention and want to be sure to get your book(s), I also have a paperback preorder form: https://goo.gl/forms/yUaLEUUb591EYZlE2

JPK ❤️❤️

  4 comments for “Roman gestures: the adlocutio

  1. Markie
    May 20, 2018 at 6:18 pm

    The information about the gestures makes the Gaius chibi that much more amazing. I *love* the history we get to learn in your blog!!

    • JP Kenwood
      May 28, 2018 at 2:09 pm

      I love that you are enjoying the history tidbits! Thank you, sweets! <3 <3 <3

  2. Kikka
    May 28, 2018 at 7:26 am

    Hey I’m Italian and just lately I’ve stumbled upon your books and great backstory infos, thanks ’cause it’s always nice for me to see the history of my ancestors told from another (hot!) POV…keep up the good job! ^_^
    Ciao cara

    • JP Kenwood
      May 28, 2018 at 2:07 pm

      Ciao, Kikka! I’m so glad you found us! I do love sharing all the history factoids and backstory tidbits, so tante grazie. If you haven’t already received a free copy of my novella, February & December, just follow the blog by email and I’ll send a gift PDF to your email inbox. Baci e abbracci! JP

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