Dotted about the centre of Rome are many ancient statues, but only six have the reputation of being able to 'talk'!
The most famous statua parlante (talking statue) stands in a small piazza, a stone's throw from the Piazza Navona. Known as Pasquino, the statue may have been named after a sharp-tongued tailor, who lived nearby. The good tailor is thought to have started the practice of attaching to the statue anonymous comments critical of the papacy and the powers that be. The practise quickly caught on and eventually gave rise to the English word pasquinade (a lampoon or satire, especially one posted in a public place).
The statue of Pasquino, which is thought to date back to the 3rd century BCE, actually depicts Menelaus, the King of Sparta and husband of Helen of Troy, holding the body of Patroclus. It was unearthed in Via Leutari and placed in the piazza in 1501 by Cardinal Oliviero Carafa. The statue may once have decorated the ancient Stadium of Domitian (c. 80-86 CE), which stood on the site of today's Piazza Navona.
Rome soon had as many as six 'talking' statues. In addition to Pasquino (Piazza di Pasquino), there were: Madame Lucrezia (Piazza San Marco), L'Abate Luigi (Abbot Luigi, Piazza Vidoni), Il Facchino (the Porter, via Lata), Marforio (Musei Capitolini) and Il Babuino (the Baboon, Via del Babuino).
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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