For two thousand years, the phrase Senatus Populusque Romanus, “The Senate and People of Rome,” has been Rome’s trademark motto. Here it is on the Arch of Titus,
However, writing out “Senatus Populusque Romanus” takes quite a bit of effort, especially when working in stone. And it takes up a lot of space, particularly on something as small as a coin. So it was quickly shortened to “SPQR,” and that ancient initialism is everywhere you look in Rome.
It remains omnipresent in modern Rome. When I look out my dining room window, I see this: a memorial plaque noting that the Scottish poet and novelist Walter Scott lived across the street. Of course, as a historic monument, it starts with SPQR:
Walking along, I spy a metal poster stand. There it is, embossed at the top of the stand, SPQR:
The lovely little fountain on Via Margutta stands under an arch shaped pilaster with the engraving — you guessed it — SPQR,
In Testaccio, I walk by a plaque on the fence surrounding Monte Testaccio, and then later by a decorative metal door, both of which bear the letters:
The municipal emblem of Rome still proudly sports SPQR,
And, it is even there when you look down,
There are, however, some more sarcastic suggestions as to what SPQR stands for. A few I’ve heard in my life are “Soli Preti Qui Rregneno” (only priests reign here), “Sono Porci Questi Romani!” (they’re pigs, these Romans!), and perhaps the most accurate, “Sono Pazzi Questi Romani!” (they’re nuts, these Romans!).