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Indecent gesture in Rome

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Detail from an ancient sculpture
Detail from an ancient sculpture

It happens that nowadays public figures abuse gestures considered obscene. “Infamis digitus”, i.e. the middle finger arranged in a manner reminiscent of male genitals was a gesture most well known in antiquity and already considered offensive and obscene.

Octavian Augustus extremely sensitive to all manifestations of violation of morality was firm in such cases. According to Suetonius in “Augustus”, an actor named Pylades was booed during a performance by one of the spectators. He used then, he used the famous gesture, drawing the unfortunate person’s attention.

Octavian Augustus punished Pylades from Rome and Italy. A popular anecdote also claims that the same gesture was to be used as early as the 4th century BCE by Diogenes against Demosthenes as a reaction to his argument.

Author: Izabela Henning
  • Suetonius, Augustus

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