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ParaVox3

Body Language

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Heyla,

 

I'm looking for information that may not be available regarding how Romans interacted using body language. Specifically:

 

1) How did slaves show deference for their masters? Was it different for a female master or a male master?

2) How did Romans show agreement? Did they nod? Or was there a different gesture?

3) How did Romans seal an agreement?

4) Were handshakes used? Were they the same as ours?

5) What kinds of gestures do we know about that have meaning?

6) Is there any documentation regarding personal deportment available?

7) Were there any gestures in particular that have a certain meaning for us today that had a different meaning for the Romans?

 

I know this is more esoteric than a lot of other questions, but I'm avidly interested if anyone has anything worthwhile to point out. I'll be happy with annecdotal stuff as opposed to anything factual as well. Also, if anyone can think of any gestures I didn't cover, I'd love to see them crop up in this thread. The purpose of this is to help me breath some life into some Roman character's I'm writing about. Thank you!

 

Warm regards,

-E

Edited by ParaVox3

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Heyla,

 

I'm looking for information that may not be available regarding how Romans interacted using body language. Specifically:

 

<SNIP>

7) Were there any gestures in particular that have a certain meaning for us today that had a different meaning for the Romans?

 

<SNIP>

Warm regards,

-E

 

I think the obvious one is the thumbs up gesture which is commonly taken as a good luck sign I have heard it argued by various Latin scholars that the Roman's would have actually used the thumb's down gesture as a sign that a gladiator had fought well so should live. I couldn't remember all the details of the arguments but have found a website that talks about the thumbs up gesture which argues that in the arena a thumb pressed flat to the hand was used to signify life while a 'stabbing' thumb was used to signify death.

 

Bernd Wechner apparently is quoting from Desmond Morris et al in stating the view that the confusion in meaning may arise from a mistranslation of the i]Pollice verso[/i] or turned thumb gesture used to signify death in the arena.

 

'Pollice verso does not mean a down-turned thumb it simply means a turned thumb -- one that is moved in some unspecified way. No particular direction can be assumed. The posture of the thumbs of those wishing to spare the gladiator was pollice compresso -- compressed thumbs.'

 

http://bernd.wechner.info/Hitchhiking/Thumb/

Edited by Melvadius

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You'll want to check out Book 11, Chapter 3, of Quintilian'sInstitutio Oratoria (click on linked title for an online English translation).

Here you will find instructions from Rome's famous 1st century C.E. rhetorician on what sort of hand gestures, body language, etc. should be used in the art of public speaking, and how other famous ancient rhetoricians employed these very specific gestures.

-- Nephele

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I read something just tonight by some scholar at some uni who said "Roman 'thumbs up' was a signal to kill, while a closed fist, thumb pressing the forefinger in, was the signal to let a gladiator live'. It had some supporting evidence as well, but the reason I'm not a scholar is that I really don't remember who said it, etc. Sorry!

 

Generally, I need household body language - how people might look at one another, greet one another and so forth. However, anything I can find in any regards would be quite useful as it can help me imagine what we don't know. For example, I can imagine that the thumbs up signal could be used to insult someone.

 

Thank you both - I'll be looking at the link regarding the oratory instruction tomorrow morning. That will no doubt give me some thought on Ancient Roman physical manner. It's well past my bedtime now.

 

-E

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I do know that kissing on (both? I think) cheeks was used as a greeting, as opposed to a handshake. It was use by both men, and women.

 

The question of thumbs seems to have no definitive answer, actually. It's often debated but, from what I've gathered, there simply is not enough evidence to come to a conclusion one way or the other.

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I don't have a lot to add, but after reading parts of the document left by Nephele, I thought I would mention the gesture where one places one's middle and ring finger against the thumb and holds the forefingers out - apparently this is used to indicate seriousness or the weight of an issue being discussed. Still looking for more.

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the gesture where one places one's middle and ring finger against the thumb and holds the forefingers out - apparently this is used to indicate seriousness or the weight of an issue being discussed

 

It's used with this meaning here in Romania. In Israel means to wait, while in Turkey - beautiful. Interesting.

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the gesture where one places one's middle and ring finger against the thumb and holds the forefingers out - apparently this is used to indicate seriousness or the weight of an issue being discussed

 

It's used with this meaning here in Romania. In Israel means to wait, while in Turkey - beautiful. Interesting.

 

And yet in Italy (palm toward the giver) that's the dreaded i due corni 'the 2 horns'...essentially the same as the American middle finger gesture or the British 'V', if shown to men it loosely translates to 'your a cuckhold'. I never did figure out if whether it's shown to a woman it means she's a slut...but could be.

 

Oh, and if you went to the University of Texas, whose mascot is the Longhorn (steer)...if you turn the palm away from the giver, it's the school 'sign': HOOK 'EM HORNS! :dontgetit:

Edited by docoflove1974

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And here in the states it's the "Rock On" sign...seen at rock concerts and the like. It's also, somehow, associated with devil worship and Satanism...but that's only in certain context (and I've seen photos of a crowd doing this at a CHRISTIAN rock concert so...).

 

In certain pagan traditions it's the sign of the Horned God, or the "kiss your hand to the moon" gesture.

 

I've also read that it is a gesture which has been used to remove a curse/protect against curses (though I don't trust that source).

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According to Desmond Morris, The Greeks wave at each other with the palm of the hand towards them, which looks to us like they are beckoning. The Southern Italians and Sicilians do this also - but further north, they wave with the palm outwards, like the rest of us. He draws the conclusion that this coincides exactly with the areas of Italy settled by the Greeks, and although the Greek language is now gone from these parts (aside from a few dialect words) the Southern Italians are still Greek in their non - verbal communication. Thus, it would appear that such gestures have remained unchanged throughout the centuries.

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This gesture "rock on" or the horns often used by rockers and bickers it's different from what I was reffering to. The right palm it's opened and pointing up with the 3 larger fingers gathered above.
The gesture with those three fingers toghether but with the 2 small ones placed in the palm has religious meaning being used when making the cross or blessing.

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This gesture "rock on" or the horns often used by rockers and bickers it's different from what I was reffering to. The right palm it's opened and pointing up with the 3 larger fingers gathered above.
The gesture with those three fingers toghether but with the 2 small ones placed in the palm has religious meaning being used when making the cross or blessing.


The second smilie means, (in the US), 'great', 'the best', etc.
The Sign of the Cross is made with the thumb, index, and middle fingers touching at the tips while the pinkey and ring fingers are folded into the palm. The former indicating the Trinity,and the latter, the two natures of Christ.

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You guys lost me. Somehow trying to describe hand signs in writing just makes my brain go 'splodey. :P

 

obviously, you paid no attention to my post!

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