The first letter of each Latin word creates the world-renowned acronym SPQR. Both it and SENATVSPOPVLVSQVEROMANVS shone on temples, triumphal arches, and government buildings, acting as a monumental seal of approval. Like “Made in the U.S.A.,” it told ancient travelers and diplomats that they beheld Roman-certified, Roman-engineered, and Roman-approved marvels. It also expressed national pride, a “We the People” meets E Pluribus Unum–a guarantee that was written in stone!
S.P.Q.R. was a die-hard logo. It was used for hundreds of years on monuments all over Rome, and it ends the inscription on the Arch of Septimius Severus in the Roman Forum. (With some patience, you’ll tease out the S.P.Q.R. from this close-up.) When the city of Rome tried to free itself of its papal overlord in the 1100s, the new civic government sported a self-legitimizing S.P.Q.R. Later, erudite Renaissance artists painted crucifixions in which the Roman cavalry’s red banners sported gold S.P.Q.R.s. Still a symbol of Rome’s local government, the abbreviation is now stamped on manhole covers, office buildings, ads, and public works. Attentive movie-goers also saw it in Gladiator, as Russell Crowe cut an S.P.Q.R. tattoo out of his upper arm.
The logo, first coined in circa 500 B.C., has been in use off and on for 2500 years. Great marketing distinguishes a great empire!