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See also the SPQR series of murder mystery novels and the SPQR board game.
Modern coat of arms of Rome
Manhole cover in Rome with SPQR inscription

SPQR is an initialism from a Latin noun phrase, Senatus Populusque Romanus ("The Senate and the People of Rome"), referring to the government of the ancient Roman Republic, and used as an official signature of the government. 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 Marcus Tullius Cicero and the history of Titus Livius. Since the meaning and the words never vary, except for the spelling and inflection of populus in literature, Latin dictionaries classify it as a formula.

In modern usage, S.P.Q.R. appears in the coat of arms of the city of Rome, as well as on many of the city's civic buildings and manhole covers. The latter were originally placed by order of Benito Mussolini, who frequently used SPQR as propaganda for his regime.[citations needed]


[edit] Historical context

The date of origin of the phrase is not known, but its meaning places it generally in the Roman Republic. The two legal entities mentioned are the Senatus and the Populus Romanus. The populus is sovereign and the combination is so as well, but the Senate alone is not. Under the monarchy neither were sovereign. The phrase can be dated therefore to no earlier than the foundation of the Republic.

This signature continued in use under the Roman Empire. The emperors were considered, and the good emperors considered themselves to be, the representatives of the people even though the senatus consulta, or decrees of the Senate, were made at the pleasure of the emperor. Were the people still sovereign under the empire? This question of Roman constitutional law is best considered in other articles.

Populus Romanus in Roman literature is a phrase meaning the government of the Republic. When the Romans named governments of other countries they used populus in the singular or plural, such as populi Priscorum Latinorum, "the governments of the Old Latins". Romanus is the established adjective used to distinguish the Romans, as in civis Romanus, "Roman citizen". The locative, Romae, "at Rome", was never used for that purpose.

The Roman people appear very often in law and history in such phrases as dignitas, maiestas, auctoritas, libertas populi Romani, the "dignity, majesty, authority, freedom of the Roman people." They were a populus liber, "a free people." There was an exercitus, imperium, iudicia, honores, consules, voluntas of this same populus: "the army, rule, judgements, 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. If this dictum sounds as though it came from any one of a number of modern revolutions, that is undoubtedly because the people still believe as their Roman cultural ancestors did. 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 centuriata, "committees of the hundreds", whose will came to be safeguarded by the Tribunes.

In more official contexts therefore Senatus Populusque Romanus was used for signing-off purposes. The singular was used for the nominative case. The plural could be used in other cases: senatu populoque consentientibus, "the senate and people ratifying" (an ablative absolute construction). In society SPQR was often "bully" language, the same as threatening to report or prosecute someone today. Cicero used it to good effect.

[edit] Modern variants

Serious patriots quickly revived the usage in modern times, throughout Europe and beyond. SPQ- is sometimes used as an assertion of municipal pride and civic rights.

[edit] Trivia

  • In the movie Gladiator, Maximus has SPQR tattooed on his left shoulder.
  • The experimental band This Heat wrote a song entitled "S.P.Q.R" which appears on their 1981 album Deceit.

[edit] See also


br:Senatus Populusque Romanus bg:Герб на Рим cs:S.P.Q.R. da:SPQR de:S.P.Q.R. es:SPQR fr:Senatus Populusque Romanus ko:SPQR id:SPQR it:SPQR he:SPQR jv:SPQR la:SPQR hu:S.P.Q.R. nl:SPQR ja:SPQR nn:SPQR pl:S.P.Q.R. pt:SPQR fi:SPQR sv:SPQR tl:SPQR uk:SPQR zh:SPQR


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