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,

The Arch of Titus, above an olive tree that was in season


The inscription 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:

Walter Scott memorial

Walking along, I spy a metal poster stand. There it is, embossed at the top of the stand, SPQR:

Poster stand

The lovely little fountain on Via Margutta stands under an arch shaped pilaster with the engraving — you guessed it — SPQR,

The Fountain of the Artists on Via Margutta

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 sign for Monte Testaccio


A particularly pretty and modern SPQR

The municipal emblem of Rome still proudly sports SPQR,

Rome’s emblem, with SPQR on a ribbon cutting across the shield on a diagonal

And, it is even there when you look down,

SPQR on a manhole cover

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!).