Vox Populi: Ancient Gossip of the Talking Statues of Rome | Ancient Origins Members Site


Vox Populi: Ancient Gossip of the Talking Statues of Rome

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Marforio at the Musei Capitolini (Public Domain)

Vox Populi: Ancient Gossip of the Talking Statues of Rome

Medieval Italy gave birth to the most talented sculptors, such as Michelangelo and Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Rome hosts some of the most famous sculptures such as the Pieta, Moses, David and the busts of several popes. However, there is a collection of statues which may be less well known to the rest of the world, but to the Romans, the inhabitants of the ‘Eternal City,’ they are known as the “Talking Statues.”  Since the 16th century, under cover of darkness, anonymous poets have used these statues to showcase their satirical criticism of various authoritative persona, be it a Pope, mayor, commander of the guards, or whomever deserved the ire of the plebeians.

Basilica of St Peter in History of Rome and the Popes in the Middle Ages (1911)(Public Domain)

Basilica of St Peter in History of Rome and the Popes in the Middle Ages (1911)(Public Domain)

The Congrega Degli Arguti

A few centuries ago in Rome, the Congrega degli Arguti, (Congregation of Wit) referred to six statues employed by the Romans as vehicles to vent their dissatisfaction, composed in satirical verse and aimed at authorities.   These pasquinades, which means a satirical protest in poetry, were posted in the dead of night, for if apprehended, the authors would face imprisonment and even amputation or death in severe cases. By the first light of dawn, the notes would be removed by the policing patrols of the day. Wandering through the streets of Urbs aeterna (Rome, the Eternal City) looking for some of the affiliates of the Congregation, one might come upon the Piazza Pasquino at the southwest corner of the Palazzo Braschi (Museo di Roma) and meet the most famous of the talking statues: Pasquino.


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