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SPQR, an abbreviation for Senatus Populusque Romanus (Classical Latin[s̠ɛˈnäːt̪ʊs̠ pɔpʊˈɫ̪ʊs̠kʷɛ roːˈmäːnʊs̠]; English: "The Roman Senate and People"; or more freely "The Senate and People of Rome"), is an emblematic abbreviated phrase referring to the government of the ancient Roman Republic. It appears on Roman currency, at the end of documents made public by an inscription in stone or metal, and in dedications of monuments and public and civil works.

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


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

Historical context[edit]

A modern recreation of a Roman standard.

The title's date of establishment is unknown, but it first appears in inscriptions of the Late Republic, from around 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 312–337 AD), the first Roman emperor to support Christianity.

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 de jure representatives of the people even though the senātūs consulta, or decrees of the Senate, were made at the de facto pleasure of the emperor.

Populus Rōmānus in Roman literature is a phrase meaning the government of the People. When the Romans named governments of foreign states, 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 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 until 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".[citation needed]

Modern use[edit]

Modern coat of arms of Rome municipality.

Even in contemporary usage, SPQR is still used in the municipal coat of arms of Rome and as abbreviation for the comune of Rome in official documents.[2][3] The Italians have long used a different and humorous expansion of this abbreviation, "Sono Pazzi Questi Romani" (literally: "They're crazy, these Romans").[4] SPQR is also part of the coat of arms of the Capital Military Command of the Italian army (Italian: Comando Militare Capitale).

In business, in English-speaking countries, SPQR is sometimes (humorously) used to mean "Small Profits, Quick Returns", often by people who have studied Latin at school.[5]

Civic references[edit]

"SPQH" in the Hamburg Rathaus
"Senatus Populusque Cracoviensis" over the Waza Gate in Wawel Castle, Kraków, Poland

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 deployment of the "SPQx" template in;

City Country SPQx Latin Where has it been used
Alkmaar  Netherlands SPQA On the facade of the Waag building.
Amsterdam  Netherlands SPQA Senatus Populusque Amstelodamensis[6] At one of the major theatres[which?][citation needed] and some of the bridges.[6]
Antwerp  Belgium SPQA Senatus Populusque Antverpensis On Antwerp City Hall and other public buildings and schools.[7]
Ascoli Piceno  Italy SPQA Senatus Populusque Asculum On the wall above the south loggia of the Piazza del Popolo, Ascoli Piceno.
Basel  Switzerland SPQB Senatus Populusque Basilea On the Webern-Brunnen in Steinenvorstadt.[8]
Benevento  Italy SPQB[9] Senatus Populusque Beneventanus[9] On manhole covers.[9]
Bologna  Italy SPQB Senatus Populusque Bonononiensis On the Fountain of Neptune, Bologna.
Bremen  Germany SPQB In the Bremen City Hall.[10]
Bruges  Belgium SPQB On its coat of arms.[11]
Brussels  Belgium SPQB Senatus Populusque Bruxellensis (of the city) or Senatus Populusque Belgicus (of the country) Found repeatedly on the Palais de Justice,[12] over the main stage of La Monnaie,[citation needed] and on the ceiling of the hemicycle of the Belgian Senate in the Palais de la Nation.
Capua  Italy SPQC
Catania  Italy SPQC Can be found on manhole covers.
Chicago  United States SPQC Can be found on the George N. Leighton Cook County Criminal Courthouse.
Dublin  Ireland SPQH Senatus Populusque Hibernicus On the City Hall, built in 1769.
Florianópolis  Brazil SPQF[9] Senatus Populusque Florianopolitanus[9]
Franeker  Netherlands SPQF At the a gate on the Westerbolwerk and Academiestraat 16.[13]
Freising  Germany SPQF Above the door of the town hall.
Ghent  Belgium SPQG Senatus Populusque Gandavensis On the Opera, Theater and some other major buildings. Inscribed on a shield on coins struck in Ghent in 1583, during the Dutch Revolt.[14]
Groningen  Netherlands SPQG Above the entrance of the Der Aa-kerk.
The Hague  Netherlands SPQH Above the stage in Koninklijke Schouwburg.
Hamburg  Germany SPQH On a door in the Hamburg Rathaus.[15]
Hanover  Germany
Haarlem  Netherlands SPQH On the face of the town hall at the "Grote Markt".
Hasselt  Belgium SPQH
Kortrijk  Belgium SPQC Senatus Populusque Cortoriacum City hall.
Kraków  Poland SPQC Senatus Populusque Cracoviensis Over the Waza Gate in Wawel Castle.
La Plata  Argentina SPQR On a monument outside of the city's "casco urbano".
Leeuwarden  Netherlands SPQL Senatus Populusque Leovardia On the mayor's chain of office.[16]
Liverpool  United Kingdom SPQL Senatus Populusque Liverpudliensis On various gold doors in St George's Hall.[17]
City of London  United Kingdom SPQL Senatus Populusque Londiniensis On historic variants of the City's coat of arms[18][19]
Lübeck  Germany SPQL Senatus Populusque Lubecensis On the Holstentor.[20]
Lucerne  Switzerland
Madrid  Spain SPQM Senatus Populusque Matritensis On the Fuente de Apolo [es], built in 1780.
Milan  Italy SPQM The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V struck coins at Milan with the inscription S P Q Mediol Optimo Principi.[21]
Modica  Italy SPQM On the coat of arms.[22]
Molfetta  Italy SPQM On the coat of arms.[23]
Naples  Italy SPQN Senatus Populusque Neāpolis Inscribed on a shield on coins struck during Masaniello's 1647 revolt.[24]
Noto  Italy SPQN Senatus Populusque Netum On the coat of arms.[25] and the façade of Noto Cathedral
Nuremberg  Germany SPQN Senatus Populusque Norimbergensis On the Fleisch Bridge (one of the major bridges over river Pegnitz in the inner city).
Oudenburg  Belgium SPQO Senatus Populusque Odenburgensis On its water pump next to the market square.[26]
Olomouc  Czechia SPQO[9] Senatus Populusque Olomucensis On its coat of arms."Olomouc". Heraldry of the World.</ref>
Palermo  Italy SPQP [27]
Penne, Abruzzo  Italy SPQP [27]
Rieti  Italy SPQS Senatus Populusque Sabinus On the coat of arms. Present also in the modern composite Lazio coat-of-arms.
Rotterdam  Netherlands SPQR On a wall painting in the Rotterdam City Hall.
Severn Beach  United Kingdom SPQR On the crest of Pilning & Severn Beach Parish Council.
Seville  Spain SPQH Senatus Populusque Hispalensis On the historic banner of the city.
Siena  Italy SPQS On the base of a status of the Capitoline Wolf.[28]
Solothurn  Switzerland SPQS Senatus Populusque Solodori On the Cathedral of St Ursus and Victor.
Terracina  Italy SPQT [29]
Tivoli, Lazio  Italy SPQT [30]
Toruń  Poland SPQT Senatus Populusque Thorunensis City Hall.[31]
Valencia  Spain SPQV Senatus Populusque Valentinus In several places and buildings, including the Silk Exchange[32] and the University of Valencia Historic Building.[33]
Verviers  Belgium SPQV On the Grand Theatre.[34]
Vienna  Austria SPQV[9] Senatus Populusque Viennensis[9] Schönbrunn Palace

Popular culture[edit]

SPQR is often used to represent the Roman Empire and Roman Republic, such as in video games and movies. In the 2000 movie Gladiator, the Roman general Maximus (portrayed by Russell Crowe) has "SPQR" tattooed on his shoulder, which he removes by scraping after he is sold into slavery.



  1. ^ Monete e Zecche Medievalli Italiane, Elio Biaggi, coins 2081 and 2141
  2. ^ "Roma Capitale - Sito Istituzionale - Home" (in Italian). Archived from the original on 18 October 2019. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  3. ^ "OGGETTO: Revoca deleghe Consigliera Nathalie Naim" (PDF) (in Italian). S.P.Q.R. - ROMA CAPITALE - MUNICIPIO ROMA CENTRO STORICO. 2 February 2011. Archived (PDF) from the original on 29 October 2019. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  4. ^ See, e.g. von Hefner, Otto Titan [in German] (1861). Handbuch der theoretischen und praktischen Heraldik. Munich. p. 106.
  5. ^ "Francis Spite & Co". TheGlasgowStory.com.
  6. ^ a b "Heraldic symbols of Amsterdam". Livius. 2 December 2006. Archived from the original on 10 December 2006.
  7. ^ Woesinger (5 January 2007). "SPQA". Flickr. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  8. ^ "Webern-Brunnen" [Webern Fountain]. Basler Brunnenführer (in German). 1 January 2003. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h "Rome - Historical Flags (Italy)". Flags of the World. 14 November 2003. Archived from the original on 8 February 2007. Retrieved 6 February 2007.
  10. ^ International Council on Monuments and Sites (2003). "Evaluations of Cultural Properties" (PDF). UNESCO. pp. 39–42. Archived (PDF) from the original on 23 June 2020. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  11. ^ "Crest of Brugge". Heraldry of the World. Archived from the original on 26 July 2020. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  12. ^ "SPQB sign on the court of Justice of Brussels". Eupedia. Archived from the original on 17 April 2010. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  13. ^ "Franeker". gevelstenen.net. Archived from the original on 27 January 2018. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  14. ^ Carew Hazlitt, W. Coinage of the European Continent. p. 216.
  15. ^ "Hamburg". Nefers Hapiland (in German). Archived from the original on 3 November 2008. Retrieved 6 January 2009.
  16. ^ "De Ambtsketen Van De Burgemeester" [The Mayor's Office]. gemeentearchief.nl (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 19 July 2011.
  17. ^ Coslett, Paul. "St George's Hall". BBC Liverpool. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  18. ^ Corporation of London Records Office. "The City Arms" (PDF). cityoflondon.gov.uk. The Corporation of the City of London. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2011. The letters SPQL [Senatus Populusque Londinii – literally, The Senate and People of London] also occasionally appear in imitation of the SPQR of ancient Rome.
  19. ^ Brunet, Alex (2013) [1839]. Regal Armorie of Great Britain. London: Forgotten Books. pp. 156–7.
  20. ^ Roberto (1 March 2007). "Holstentor - SPQL: Senatus Populusque Lubecensis". Flickr. Archived from the original on 9 December 2019. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  21. ^ Potter, W. J. The Coinage of Milan. p. 19. coin 4.
  22. ^ "Modica". Heraldry of the World. Archived from the original on 26 July 2020. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  23. ^ "Molfetta". Heraldry of the World. Archived from the original on 26 July 2020. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  24. ^ Italian Coinage Medieval to Modern, The Collection of Ercole Gnecchi, coin 3683
  25. ^ "Noto". Heraldry of the World. Archived from the original on 26 July 2020. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  26. ^ "Stadspomp, Oudenburg". Flickr. 30 May 2009. Archived from the original on 26 January 2019. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  27. ^ a b mypixbox (5 December 2007). "SPQP". Flickr. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  28. ^ Moree (17 June 2008). "SPQS". Flickr. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  29. ^ Dilke, O. A. W.; Dilke, Margaret S. (October 1961). "Terracina and the Pomptine Marshes". Greece & Rome. Cambridge University Press. II:8 (2): 172–178. doi:10.1017/S0017383500014406. ISSN 0017-3835. OCLC 51206579.
  30. ^ "Walking in Pomata". Tibursuperbum. Con il patrocinio del Comune di Tivoli Assessorato al Turismo. Archived from the original on 25 December 2008. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  31. ^ "Sala Rady (Senatu) w Ratuszu Staromiejskim - Atrakcje Torunia - Przewodnik po Toruniu | Toruń Tour Toruński Portal Turystyczny". Toruński Portal Turystyczny (in Polish). Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  32. ^ "Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes". Cervantesvirtual.com. Archived from the original on 22 September 2013. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  33. ^ Gallardo, Elena (27 September 2008). "SPQV". Flickr.
  34. ^ "Le Grand-Théâtre de Verviers". bestofverviers.be (in French). Archived from the original on 12 November 2014.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]