You may have seen it on illustrations of ancient Rome, on banners carried by Roman legions in an epic movie, or even on a manhole cover while walking through the streets of modern Rome..it’s the ancient Roman abbreviation SPQR..but have you ever wondered what it stands for exactly?
Scholars and better informed tourists will know well that the initialism stands for Senatus Populusque Romanus, or “the Senate and the Roman people” in Latin, although some Italians may know it in a rather different translation. It’s the kind of interpratation given by many schoolchildren especially in the North of Italy, whose prejudiced opinions of those from the capital give it the meaning of “Sono Porci Questi Romani“, ie. These Romans are pigs!
Unfortunately the expression carries on after school among many adults, and of course flamboyant Northern League leader Umberto Bossi managed to say it out loud in public over the weekend, during a party rally, much to the chagrain of allies and oppostion alike.
Mayor of Rome Gianni Alemanno received a swift apology from PM Berlusconi who brushed off Bossi’s quip as a mere “joke”.