Late last week on the bus I was having a conversation with a friend that, after a while, broke off on a tangent about the Roman Empire’s acronym SPQR.

It’s the sort of thing that young Roman men have tattooed on their arms, as if they were imperial Roman Gladiators, or Russell Crowe or something. Mussolini was similarly patriotic about it, as is my understanding, and put it on government buildings and manhole covers across the city.

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