What does SPQR mean?

In  Rome you read it very often, it appears in numerous monuments especially of Ancient Rome, but what does SPQR mean? This acronym is fundamental for the history of the Eternal City and its diffusion has reached all over the world and, from the time of the ancients, up to the present day, to the point that today it appears in the symbol of the Municipality of Rome.

But what exactly does SPQR mean? This acronym sees its origins in the times of the Roman Republic, when the two main figures of power were the Senate - or the patricians - and the People - or the plebeians.

The acronym SPQR encloses both of these figures, since it means Senatus PopulusQue Romanus, or "the Senate and the People of Rome". Since the times of the Republic, this acronym has appeared in the official coats of arms of Rome, wanting to enclose, through the Senate and the People, the entire citizenship of the City.

The dedication of the Roman Senate and People in the Arch of Titus

Actually, if you want to know what SPQR means, it should be said that there are also alternative versions of the meaning of this acronym, which however do not alter its function as a symbol of the entire citizenry. According to the Latin-Italian Castiglioni-Mariotti vocabulary, the acronym would stand for "Senatus Populusque Quiritium Romanum", or "The Senate and the Roman People of the Quiriti". The Quirites were Roman citizens who fully enjoyed the rights of Roman citizenship.

Although the acronym was born in the Republican Age and makes explicit reference to institutions of that era, it remained a city symbol even during the Imperial Age and even after the fall of the Roman Empire.

For all the following centuries SPQR remained a fundamental acronym in the symbols of Rome, practically always appearing in the official or in any case more widespread emblems. Since 1927 it also appears in the official coat of arms of the Municipality of Rome still adopted today.

The widespread diffusion of the acronym SPQR and its important history has led to it being part of popular culture as well. For this reason it has sometimes been reused in other forms, for satirical, creative or other reasons. Giuseppe Gioachino Belli, in a sonnet entitled SPQR, uses it with the meaning of "Soli Preti Qui Regneno", that means "Olny Priests Reigns Here". 

The meaning used instead in the French comic Asterix is different, in which, as known, Caesar's Gallic war is revisited from the point of view of the Gauls Asterix and Obelix (with slightly different results from how it really went...), and in this case the famous acronym is used to say "Sono Pazzi Questi Romani", that means "These Romans Are Crazy".

For the same reason, many cities have borrowed the acronym SPQR from Rome: there are dozens of them throughout Italy, including SPQA of Albano Laziale, SPQP of Palermo, SPK of Cagliari (used only in some frescoes in the Royal Palace of the city ) and SPQS of Siena.

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