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  • Writer's pictureJP Kenwood

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.

Coin 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.

Titus doing the civic adlocutio in the Vatican

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

Augustus 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.

Trajan 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…

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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).

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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:

JPK ❤️❤️

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