Ever since the first kiss was recorded in Vedic scriptures in 1500BC, the dilemma of how, when and whom to kiss has vexed the minds of nervous socialisers. From AD14-37, the Emperor Tiberius banned kissing to try to stop the spread of the disfiguring disease mentagra.
We've mentioned this Tiberian ban on kissing before, but those claims revolved around herpes. The mentagra reference is interesting because we've got something from Pliny on it ... here's the relevant text via Lacus Curtius:
Gravissimum ex iis lichenas appellavere Graeco nomine, Latine, quoniam a mento fere oriebatur, ioculari primum lascivia, ut est procax multorum natura in alienis miseriis, mox et usurpato vocabulo mentagram, occupantem multis et latius totos utique voltus, oculis tantum inmunibus, descendentem vero et in colla pectusque ac manus foedo cutis furfure.
Non fuerat haec lues apud maiores patresque nostros et primum Ti. Claudi Caesaris principatu medio inrepsit in Italiam quodam Perusino equite Romano, quaestorio scriba, cum in Asia adparuisset, inde contagionem eius inportante. nec sensere id malum feminae aut servitia plebesque humilis aut media, sed proceres veloci transitu osculi maxime, foediore multorum, qui perpeti medicinam toleraverant, cicatrice quam morbo. causticis namque curabatur, ni usque in ossa corpus exustum esset, rebellante taedio.
If mentagra is as disfiguring as the Independent article suggests, the ban on 'cotidiana oscula' mentioned in Suetonius makes a bit more sense now ... [that said, the only refs I can find to mentagra on the web is that it is another word for sycosis, which is an inflammation of the hair follicles (especially of the beard), which doesn't quite sound like what Pliny is describing]
Dexter Hoyos notes:
Small addendum/emendandum to the report ... Ti. Claudius Caesar means the cheerfully odd Claudius (reigned 41 to 54), not the earlier, strangely odd Tiberius, his uncle, who was Ti. (Iulius) Caesar.