Saturday, 13 March 2010
The Sator Square
Language is a wondrous thing. Take, for instance, the Sator Square, which was first found in the ashes of Pompei in 79 AD. Without the use of a computer, some clever person came up with this word square using the Latin words SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS. It's not only a palindrome (i.e.: can be read the same way in either direction) but, as a square, it also works top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top, left-to-right and right-to-left.
Roughly translated it means "the farmer Arepo uses his plough as his form of work".
So why go to all that trouble to say something so trivial? Could it contain an encrypted message? And yes indeed, when treated as an anagram, it becomes rather more intriguing:
This Greek cross comprises the first words of the Lord's Prayer with the two As and Os as Alpha and Omega, suggesting that the Square was probably a clandestine way for early Christians to signal their presence to each other without exposing themselves to persecution.