The Meaning of SPQR: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of SPQR? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the abbreviation SPQR, including its definition, usage, and more!

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What does the acronym SPQR stand for?

According to Hyperallergic and Vassar Spaces, the term SPQR stands for Senatus Populusque Romanus (the Senate and People of Rome). In antiquity of the Roman Empire, this Latin inscription was used on the triumphal arches, the altars, and the coins of Rome. It was a shorthand way of signifying the Roman state by referencing its two component parts: Rome’s Senate and her people. A number of white supremacist groups have begun to adopt the ancient acronym to symbolize their movement in modern times. They are using it in a militaristic way that is very different from how Romans applied it. In the modern political and social revolutions, similar language comes directly from this usage.

The Romans began to use this term in 80 BCE when it replaced ROMA on the coins and other places where there were inscriptions. This was an important inscription in the Roman army and Roman military. The eagle or Aquila of the Roman Legion had a banner with SPQR embroidered on it. The Latin phrase was meant to serve as a reminder of the power and legitimacy of the Legion, and its loyalty to the people of Rome by the government of the ancient Roman Republic. It also appeared on the end of documents in historical literature, in a top inscription in stone or metal, and in dedications of monuments and public buildings and civil works. Caesar, Livy, Augustus, Pliny, and many other late Latin authors also used it, as well as the speeches of Cicero and Ab urbe condita libri of Titus Livius. It was even used on the mosaic floor in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan entitled the Superiority of the Warrior Class by Wenceslaus Hollar, a dedicatory plaque to Federico Fellini, and the Arch of Septimius Severus.

According to High Speed History, the emblematic abbreviated phrase became associated with paganism as Christianity rose in the Roman world, and the reign of Constantine the Great 312 – 337 CE was the last time it appeared on coins. It saw a revival in the Middle Ages, and was on coinage during the Commune of Rome from 1184 CE and again between 1414 and 1517 CE. Benito Mussolini, the Italian dictator, also tried to use SPQR to link his regime of dictatorship to the glory of ancient Rome and a symbol of Italian unity.

Unfortunately in modern times this phrase has become associated with white nationalists and racist hate groups. A group of Ohio University students attracted protests for an SPQR flag, and they were flown at a Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally of white supremacists and other nationalist groups. Students tried to assert that it was a “Roman legion flag” and a “party flag.” This is also related to the neo-Nazi attempts to rebrand the Nazi salute as “the Roman salute.” People have even gotten tattoos of the SPQR flag as a white nationalist symbol. People are trying to be more subtle about their white nationalism and believe this term is a way to do so. People also use the SPQR flag as an avatar to show others that they are white supremacists. 

White supremacists have begun to assert that Rome was the greatest empire of all time because the Romans were “masters of military tactics” who created a conservative, family oriented society. This is promoting xenophobia by claiming that Rome’s inclusive citizenship politics led to its decline. One supremacist even stated that the Romans, “destroyed themselves by miscegenation, internecine wars, and that fatuous tolerance with which they permitted themselves to be displaced by their subjects and slaves…to Rome from northern Africa came Berbers and Semites; from Egypt, degenerate Greeks and Hamitic mongrels, many of them bearing some taint of Black blood; from Asia, partly Greek hybrids, Semites, and all the fermenting mixture of the racial compost heap that Asia Minor had become; and, of course, to the capital of the ancient world flocked the ubiquitous Jews,” per Vassar. This horrific viewpoint is promoting white supremacy globally and it is scary to think about the same prejudices and hate crimes still occuring today. Never hesitate to report hate crimes or nationalist or supremacist behavior. 

According to The Free Dictionary, the signature SPQR can stand for much more than just Senatus Populusque Quiritium Romanus. This term has a few other potential definitions. However, these are used less commonly. While these are still accurate definitions, they should be used sparingly as not to cause confusion. If you do plan on using one of these definitions, make sure that you provide proper context to avoid confusion. Try making flashcards or quizzes to memorize this term’s different meanings!

  •  Social Policy Question Resource (UK)
  •  Software Product Quality Reporter (computer tool)
  •  System for Pattern Query and Recognition (computing)
  •  Small Profit, Quick Return
  •  Syndicat de la Presse Quotidienne Régionale (France)

Overall, the term SPQR means Senātus Populusque Rōmānus, or in English, The Senate and People of Rome. The letters SPQR originally appeared on public works, a dedicatory plaque, a coat of arms, or an SPQR flag to show the new Roman empire and government as a representative of the people. It was used as an official emblem of the modern day Rome to show the standards of the Roman legions and a source of sovereignty. In modernity, Populus Rōmānus is associated with white supremacy and hate groups in the United States. 


  1. SPQR – What does SPQR stand for? | The Free Dictionary 
  2. 14 replies on “The Misuse of an Ancient Roman Acronym by White Nationalist Groups” | Hyperallergic 
  3. SPQR and White Nationalism – Pharos | Vassar Spaces 
  4. SPQR Meaning | High Speed History