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SPQR, an abbreviation for Senātus Populusque Rōmānus (Classical Latin[sɛˈnaːtus pɔpuˈluskʷɛ roːˈmaːnus]; 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 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.


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 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 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 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 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 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 arm of Rome and as abbreviation for the comune of Rome in official documents.[2][3]

Civic references[edit]

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  The Netherlands SPQA On the facade of the Waag building.
Amsterdam  The Netherlands SPQA Senatus Populusque Amstelodamensis[4] At one of the major theatres[which?][citation needed] and some of the bridges.[4]
Antwerp  Belgium SPQA On Antwerp City Hall.[5]
Basel   Switzerland SPQB Senatus Populusque Basilea On the Webern-Brunnen in Steinenvorstadt.[6]
Benevento  Italy SPQB[7] Senatus Populusque Beneventanus[7] On manhole covers.[7]
Bremen  Germany SPQB In the Bremen City Hall.[8]
Bruges  Belgium SPQB On its coat of arms.[9]
Brussels  Belgium SPQB Found repeatedly on the Palais de Justice,[10] and over the main stage of La Monnaie.[citation needed]
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 Hibernia On the City Hall, built in 1769.
Florence  Italy SPQF[7] Senatus Populusque Florianopolitanus[7]
Franeker  The Netherlands SPQF At the a gate on the Westerbolwerk and Academiestraat 16.[11]
Freising  Germany SPQF Above the door of the town hall.
Ghent  Belgium SPQG On the Opera, Theater and some other major buildings. Inscribed on a shield on coins struck in Ghent in 1583, during the Dutch Revolt.[12]
The Hague  The Netherlands SPQH Above the stage in Koninklijke Schouwburg.
Hamburg  Germany SPQH On a door in the Hamburg Rathaus.[13]
Hanover  Germany
Haarlem  The Netherlands SPQH On the face of the town hall at the "Grote Markt".
Hasselt  Belgium SPQH
Kortrijk  Belgium SPQC Senatus Populusque Cortoriacum City hall.
La Plata  Argentina SPQR On a monument outside of the city's "casco urbano".
Leeuwarden  The Netherlands SPQL Senatus Populusque Leovardia On the mayor's chain of office.[14]
Liverpool  United Kingdom SPQL Senatus Populusque Liverpudliensis On various gold doors in St George's Hall.[15]
City of London  United Kingdom SPQL Senatus Populusque Londinii On historic variants of the City's coat of arms[16][17]
Lübeck  Germany SPQL Senatus Populusque Lubecca On the Holstentor.[18]
Lucerne   Switzerland
Milan  Italy SPQM The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V struck coins at Milan with the inscription S P Q Mediol Optimo Principi.[19]
Modica  Italy SPQM On the coat of arms.[20]
Molfetta  Italy SPQM On the coat of arms.[21]
Naples  Italy SPQN Senatus Populusque Neāpolis Inscribed on a shield on coins struck during Masaniello's 1647 revolt.[22]
Noto  Italy SPQN Senatus Populusque Netum On the coat of arms.[23] 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.[24]
Olomouc  Czech Republic SPQO[7] Senatus Populusque Olomucium On its coat of arms."Olomouc". Heraldry of the World.</ref>
Palermo  Italy SPQP [25]
Penne, Abruzzo  Italy SPQP [25]
Rieti  Italy SPQS Senatus Populusque Sabinus On the coat of arms. Present also in the modern composite Lazio coat-of-arms.
Rotterdam  The Netherlands SPQR On a wall painting in the Rotterdam City Hall [nl].
Severn Beach  United Kingdom SPQR On the crest of Pilning & Severn Beach Parish Council.
Siena  Italy SPQS On the base of a status of the Capitoline Wolf.[26]
Solothurn   Switzerland SPQS On the Cathedral of St Ursus and Victor.
Terracina  Italy SPQT [27]
Tivoli, Lazio  Italy SPQT [28]
Valencia  Spain SPQV In several places and buildings, including the Silk Exchange[29] and the University of Valencia Historic Building.[30]
Verviers  Belgium SPQV On the Grand Theatre.[31]
Vienna  Austria SPQV[7] Senatus Populusque Viennensis[7]

Use by white supremacists[edit]

Some members of white supremacist groups use the acronym SPQR on flags, on their person (such as tattoos) and other forms of identification.[32][33][34][35] The movement's enthusiasm for other symbols of republican Rome, such as the axe and bundled rods known as fasces, is documented, as well as their interest in some aspects of republican and imperial Rome.[36] That use was discussed on Stormfront's bulletin boards and was noticed at white supremacist demonstrations.[33] White supremacists tend to associate "SPQR" with the militaristic ethos of the Roman legions. There is in fact no evidence that the initialism appeared regularly on Roman military insignia and equipment.

Popular culture[edit]

  • The Italians have long used a different and humorous expansion of this abbreviation, "Sono Pazzi Questi Romani" (literally: "They're crazy, these Romans").[37] In the Asterix and Obelix comics, Obelix often uses the French translation of this phrase, "Ils sont fous ces Romains", and in the Italian editions, the original phrase is used.[38]
  • In the early twentieth century, the letters "SPQR" could sometimes be seen displayed on London market traders' stalls, meaning "Small Profits, Quick Returns".[39]
  • 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.[40]
  • The short-lived American animated sitcom The Roman Holidays (1972) aired in Italy under the title S.P.Q.R. - Sembrano Proprio Quasi Romani ("They really seem almost Roman").
  • S.P.Q.R. is the fourth song on the critically acclaimed experimental rock album Deceit (1981) by This Heat. The song talks about atomic destruction and human morals using symbols of Rome.[41]
  • A short scene in the Ridley Scott film Gladiator shows the main character Maximus (played by Russell Crowe) removing a tattoo of the letters "S.P.Q.R." from his left shoulder with a sharp stone. Maximus is a Roman soldier-turned-slave, and while removing the tattoo a fellow slave asks "Is that the sign of your gods? Will that not anger them?", to which Maximus gives a silent nod.



  1. ^ Monete e Zecche Medievalli Italiane, Elio Biaggi, coins 2081 and 2141
  2. ^ "Roma Capitale - Sito Istituzionale - Home" (in Italian). 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. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Heraldic symbols of Amsterdam". Livius. 2 December 2006. Archived from the original on 10 December 2006.
  5. ^ Woesinger (5 January 2007). "SPQA". Flickr. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  6. ^ "Webern-Brunnen" [Webern Fountain]. Basler Brunnenführer (in German). 1 January 2003. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h "Rome - Historical Flags (Italy)". Flags of the World. 14 November 2003.
  8. ^ International Council on Monuments and Sites (2003). "Evaluations of Cultural Properties" (PDF). UNESCO. pp. 39–42. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  9. ^ "Crest of Brugge". Heraldry of the World. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  10. ^ "SPQB sign on the court of Justice of Brussels". Eupedia. Archived from the original on 17 April 2010. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  11. ^ "Franeker". gevelstenen.net.
  12. ^ Carew Hazlitt, W. Coinage of the European Continent. p. 216.
  13. ^ "Hamburg". Nefers Hapiland (in German).
  14. ^ "De Ambtsketen Van De Burgemeester" [The Mayor's Office]. gemeentearchief.nl (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 19 July 2011.
  15. ^ Coslett, Paul. "St George's Hall". BBC Liverpool. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Brunet, Alex (2013) [1839]. Regal Armorie of Great Britain. London: Forgotten Books. pp. 156–7.
  18. ^ Roberto (1 March 2007). "Holstentor - SPQL: Senatus Populusque Lubecensis". Flickr. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  19. ^ Potter, W. J. The Coinage of Milan. p. 19. coin 4.
  20. ^ "Modica". Heraldry of the World.
  21. ^ "Molfetta". Heraldry of the World.
  22. ^ Italian Coinage Medieval to Modern, The Collection of Ercole Gnecchi, coin 3683
  23. ^ "Noto". Heraldry of the World.
  24. ^ "Stadspomp, Oudenburg". Flickr.
  25. ^ a b mypixbox (5 December 2007). "SPQP". Flickr. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  26. ^ Moree (17 June 2008). "SPQS". Flickr. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  27. ^ Dilke, O. A. W.; Dilke, Margaret S. (October 1961). "Terracina and the Pomptine Marshes". Greece & Rome. Cambridge University Press. II:8 (2): 172–178. ISSN 0017-3835. OCLC 51206579.
  28. ^ "Walking in Pomata". Tibursuperbum. Con il patrocinio del Comune di Tivoli Assessorato al Turismo. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  29. ^ "Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes". Cervantesvirtual.com. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  30. ^ Gallardo, Elena. "SPQV". Flickr.
  31. ^ "Le Grand-Théâtre de Verviers". bestofverviers.be (in French). Archived from the original on 12 November 2014.
  32. ^ Bond, Sarah E. (30 August 2018). "The misuse of an ancient Roman acronym by white nationalist groups". Hyperallergic. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  33. ^ a b Angell, Ben; et al. (27 July 2018). "Scholars Respond to SPQR and White Nationalism". Pharos. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  34. ^ Angell, Ben; et al. (15 June 2018). "SPQR and White Nationalism". Pharos. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  35. ^ "Flags and Other Symbols Used By Far-Right Groups in Charlottesville". Southern Poverty Law Center. 12 August 2017. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  36. ^ Angell, Ben; et al. (11 December 2017). ""American Fascist Manifesto" begins with the Roman Republic". Pharos. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  37. ^ See, e.g. von Hefner, Otto Titan (1861). Handbuch der theoretischen und praktischen Heraldik. Munich. p. 106.
  38. ^ Asterix around the world
  39. ^ Fowler, H. W.; Fowler, F. G.; Crystal, David (2011) [1911]. The Concise Oxford Dictionary: The Classic First Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 748. ISBN 978-0-19-969612-3.
  40. ^ "Biography – S.P.Q.R." 45cat.com. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  41. ^ "This Heat – S.P.Q.R."
  42. ^ King, Helen (28 October 2017). "Iconic Auckland restaurant SPQR up for sale". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
  43. ^ "SPQR restaurant review: Metro Top 50 2019". Metro. 1 May 2019. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
  44. ^ Cover of Français Pour Une Nuit - Live Aux Arènes De Nîmes 2009 at Discogs
  45. ^ "'SPQR' adds final touch to special derby kit". www.asroma.com.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]