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SPQR is an initialism from a Latin phrase, Senātus Populusque Rōmānus ("The Senate and People of Rome", see translation), 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 coins, 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 standards of the Roman legions.
The phrase appears many hundreds of times in Roman political, legal and historical literature, including the speeches of Cicero and the Ab urbe condita libri ("Books from the Founding of the City") of Titus Livius (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 Populus: the "Roman People".
Thus, the sentence is translated as the more literal "The Senate and the Roman People", or alternatively as "The Senate and the People of Rome".
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (March 2010)|
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 I the Great (ruled AD 312-37).
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 Monarchy 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.
Today SPQR is still the municipal symbol of the city of Rome.
SPQx is sometimes used as an assertion of municipal pride and civic rights. Reggio Emilia, for instance, has SPQR in its coat of arms, standing for "Senatus Populusque Regiensis". There have been reports of SPQx from:
- Amsterdam, Netherlands, SPQA at one of the major theatres and some of the bridges
- Antwerp, Belgium, SPQA on the Antwerp City Hall
- Benevento, Italy, SPQB on manhole covers
- Bremen, Germany, SPQB in the Town Hall of Bremen
- Bruges, Belgium, SPQB on its coat of arms
- Brussels, Belgium, SPQB found repeatedly on the Law Courts of Brussels, and over the main stage of La Monnaie/De Munt opera house
- Dublin, Ireland, SPQH on the City Hall, Dublin built in 1769
- Florence, Italy, SPQF
- Florianópolis, Brazil, SPQF
- Freising, Germany, SPQF, above the door of the town hall
- Ghent, Belgium, SPQG on the Opera, Theater and some other major buildings.
- Hamburg, Germany, SPQH on a door in the Hamburg Rathaus
- Hannover, Germany
- Haarlem, the Netherlands, SPQH on the face of the town hall at the "Grote Markt"
- Hasselt, Belgium, SPQH
- Kortrijk, Belgium, SPQC, city hall
- Leeuwarden, Netherlands, SPQL on the mayor's chain of office
- Liverpool, England, SPQL on various gold doors in St George's Hall
- City of London, England, SPQL
- Lübeck, Germany, SPQL on the Holstentor
- Lucerne, Switzerland
- Modica, Italy, SPQM is on the coat of arms
- Molfetta, Italy, SPQM is on the coat of arms
- Nuremberg, Germany, SQPN ("Norimbergensis") on the Fleischbrücke (one of the major bridges over river Pegnitz in the inner city)
- Olomouc, Czech Republic, SPQO on its coat of arms
- Palermo, Italy, SPQP
- Siena, Italy, SPQS
- Solothurn, Switzerland, on the Cathedral of St Ursus and Victor
- Terracina, Italy, SPQT
- Tivoli, Italy, SPQT
- Valencia, Spain, SPQV in several places and buildings, including the Silk Exchange and the University of Valencia Historic Building.
- Verviers, Belgium, SPQV on the Grand Theatre
- Vienna, Austria
The letters "SPQR" can sometimes be seen displayed on London market trader's stalls. In this instance it is alleged to stand for 'Small Profits, Quick Returns', a reminder not only of their trading philosophy, but also of the Londoner's sense of humour.
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.
In the Asterix and Obelix comics the Romans are often called crazy: "Ils sont fous ces romains" ("They're crazy, these Romans"). In the Italian editions, this is translated as "Sono Pazzi Questi Romani", abbreviated as SPQR.
- Heraldic symbols of Amsterdam, Livius.org, 2 December 2006.
- "Rome - Historical Flags (Italy)", CRWflags.com, 14 November 2003.
- (German) Nefershapiland.de
- (Dutch) Gemeentearchief.nl
- O. A. W. Dilke and Margaret S. Dilke (October 1961). "Terracina and the Pomptine Marshes". Greece & Rome (Cambridge University Press) II:8 (2): 172–178. ISSN 0017-3835. OCLC 51206579.
- (French) Bestofverviers.be
|Look up SPQR in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to SPQR.|
- Instances of "Roman Senate and People" in www.Perseus.edu
- Lewis & Short dictionary entry for populus on www.Perseus.edu
- Polybius on the Senate and People (6.16)