In Rome the four letters S. P. Q. R. are to be seen on everything from dustbins and drains to street fountains and manhole covers.
However, two thousand years ago the letters would have been emblazoned on the standards of the mighty Roman legions. In the ancient Roman Republic the letters referred to the government, which was made up of the Senate and the Roman People: Senatus PopulusQue Romanus. Nowadays, the four letters are used as the official emblem of the city of Rome.
During the Fascist period (1922-1943) the letters were often accompanied by the fasces (from which the Fascist party drew its name), a bundle of wooden rods and an axe. In the days of ancient Rome the fasces were carried by the lictors, the figures who escorted magistrates through the streets of the city.
The famous four letters have come to stand for all sorts of things. To non-Romans, they became Sono Porchi Questi Romani (these Romans are pigs). To anti-clerics, they became Sono Preti Regnano Qui (only the priests reign here).
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My name is David Lown and I am an art historian, writer and guide