This article is about the Latin initialism. For other uses, see SPQR (disambiguation).
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    SPQR is an initialism of a Latin phrase Senātus Populus que Rōmānus ("The Roman Senate and People", or more freely as "The Senate and People of Rome"; Classical Latin: [sɛˈnaː.tʊs pɔpʊˈlʊs.kᶣɛ roːˈmaː.nʊs]), referring to the government of the ancient Roman Republic, and used as an official emblem of the modern-day comune (municipality) of Rome. It appears on Roman currency, at the end of documents made public by inscription in stone or metal, in dedications of monuments and public works, and was emblazoned on the vexilloids of the Roman legions.

    The phrase commonly appears in Roman political, legal and historical literature, including the speeches of Cicero and Ab Urbe Condita Libri ("Books from the Founding of the City") of Livy.


    SPQR: Senātus Populusque Rōmānus. In Latin, Senātus is a nominative singular noun meaning "Senate". Populusque is compounded from the nominative noun Populus, "the People", and -que, an enclitic particle meaning "and" which connects the two nominative nouns. The last word, Rōmānus ("Roman") is an adjective modifying the whole of Senātus Populusque: the "Roman Senate and People", taken as a whole.

    Thus, the sentence is translated literally as "The Roman Senate and People", or more freely as "The Senate and People of Rome".

    Historical context

    The title's date of establishment is unknown, but it first appears in inscriptions of the Late Republic, from c. 80 BC onwards. Previously, the official name of the Roman state, as evidenced on coins, was simply ROMA. The abbreviation last appears on coins of Constantine the Great (ruled AD 312-337), the first Christian Roman emperor.

    The two legal entities mentioned, Senātus and the Populus Rōmānus, are sovereign when combined. However, where populus is sovereign alone, Senātus is not. Under the Roman Kingdom neither entity was sovereign. The phrase, therefore, can be dated to no earlier than the foundation of the Republic.

    This signature continued in use under the Roman Empire. The emperors were considered the representatives of the people even though the senātūs consulta, or decrees of the Senate, were made at the pleasure of the emperor.

    Populus Rōmānus in Roman literature is a phrase meaning the government of the People. When the Romans named governments of other countries they used populus in the singular or plural, such as populī Prīscōrum Latīnōrum, "the governments of the Old Latins". Rōmānus is the established adjective used to distinguish the Romans, as in cīvis Rōmānus, "Roman citizen". The locative, Rōmae, "at Rome", was never used for that purpose.

    The Roman people appear very often in law and history in such phrases as dignitās, maiestās, auctoritās, lībertās populī Rōmānī, the "dignity, majesty, authority, freedom of the Roman people". They were a populus līber, "a free people". There was an exercitus, imperium, iudicia, honorēs, consulēs, voluntās of this same populus: "the army, rule, judgments, offices, consuls and will of the Roman people". They appear in early Latin as Popolus and Poplus, so the habit of thinking of themselves as free and sovereign was quite ingrained.

    The Romans believed that all authority came from the people. It could be said that similar language seen in more modern political and social revolutions directly comes from this usage. People in this sense meant the whole government. The latter, however, was essentially divided into the aristocratic Senate, whose will was executed by the consuls and praetors, and the comitia centuriāta, "committee of the centuries", whose will came to be safeguarded by the Tribunes.

    One of the ways the emperor Commodus (180-192) paid for his donatives and mass entertainments was to tax the senatorial order, and on many inscriptions, the traditional order is provocatively reversed (Populus Senatusque...).

    Beginning in 1184, the Commune of Rome struck coins in the name of the SENATVS P Q R. From 1414 and 1517, the Roman Senate struck coins with a shield inscribed SPQR.[1]

    During the regime of Benito Mussolini, SPQR was emblazoned on a number of public buildings and manhole covers in an attempt to promote his dictatorship as a "New Roman Empire".

    Modern use

    Modern manhole cover in Rome with SPQR inscription.

    Today SPQR is still the municipal symbol of the city of Rome.

    Civic references

    A modern recreation of a Roman standard.

    SPQx is sometimes used as an assertion of municipal pride and civic rights. The Italian town of Reggio Emilia, for instance, has SPQR in its coat of arms, standing for "Senatus Populusque Regiensis". There have been confirmed usages and reports of the employment of the "SPQx" template in;

    The letters "SPQR" can sometimes be seen displayed on London market trader's stalls, meaning "Small Profits, Quick Returns"; a reminder not only of their trading philosophy, but also of the Londoner's sense of humour.[26]

    Some northern Italians, critical of the alleged corruption and waste of the Italian government in Rome, say that SPQR stands for "Sono Porci Questi Romani", which translates as "These Romans are pigs".

    MPQN, standing for Metallica Populusque Nimus, appears on the cover of the Metallica live DVD Français Pour une Nuit, which was recorded in the Arena of Nîmes, a remodelled Roman amphiteatre.[27]

    In the Asterix and Obelix comics, Obelix often calls the Romans crazy: "Ils sont fous ces romains" (literally: "They're crazy, these Romans"). In the Italian editions, this is translated as "Sono Pazzi Questi Romani", abbreviated as SPQR.

    In the cover of the Spanish Mort & Phil comic album La historia del dinero,[28] Mort is carried on a litter as a Roman emperor, while his partner Phil holds a Roman standard topped by an umbrella with the tituli SPOR and SI LLUEVE (A pun, since Es por si llueve means "Just in case it rains" in Spanish).

    In The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan, SPQR is tattooed on the arms of members of the Roman Legion.

    The SPQR series is a collection of historical mystery stories by John Maddox Roberts set in the time of the Roman Republic.

    S.P.Q.R. Records was an American popular music record label, a subsidiary of Legrand Records, which flourished in the 1960s and included Gary U.S. Bonds among its artists. The label was founded by Frank Guida, who is believed to have adopted the name in allusion to his Italian origins.[29]

    In the internet meme Polandball, the Roman Empire is represented by SPQRball.


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    2. Heraldic symbols of Amsterdam, Livius.org, 2 December 2006.
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    25. (French) Bestofverviers.be
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    27. Cover of Français Pour Une Nuit - Live Aux Arènes De Nîmes 2009 at Discogs
    28. La historia del dinero, 1980, Editorial Bruguera/Bankunión.
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    Further reading

    Look up SPQR in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
    Wikimedia Commons has media related to SPQR.
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