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Rome, 26 May 2012
Everywhere you go in Rome you come across the abbreviation SPQR. You find it in municipal documents, on street furniture (manhole covers, litter bins, etc), and even chiselled on the stone plinths of statues in the Campdoglio, the piazza on Capitol hill designed by Michelangelo, where stands the Palazzo Senatorio (Rome’s City Hall) overlooking the ruins of the Roman Forum. In classical times, the abbreviation appeared on coins and was emblazoned on the standards of the Roman legions. Cicero used the term frequently, as did Livy. In the 20th century Mussolini had the initials engraved on public buildings in an attempt to give gravitas and pedigree to his dictatorship.
The initials SPQR stand for the words:
Senatus Populusque Romanus
which translates into English as:
“The Senate and the Roman People” or “The Senate and the People of Rome”.
However, provincial Italians, who have a strong patriotic attachment to their own regions and resent the dominance of Rome, have had a go at the capital by suggesting that the initials in fact represent the following modern Italian words:
Sono Pazzi Quei Romani
Which c0mes out English as:
“They are mad, those Romans.”
And there is a less kind version still:
Sono Porci Quei Romani
Of which the English translation is:
“They are pigs, those Romans.”
Not very nice, it must be said. Speaking personally, we have never met a Roman who was not the personification of charm and courtesy. Whether they are mad or not, it is not for us to say.
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
2. Das Vierte Reich/The Fourth Reich (6 Feb 2012)
3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
4. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
5. What would Gandhi have said? (30 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.