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.

7 comments:

Lidi said...

Interesting!

Susan said...

Curiously erudite - and fascinating stuff!

TammiMagee said...

so clever!

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

I watched an hour on the History Channel not too long ago, dedicated to the Sator Square. If I remember correctly, they said that ROTAS had no Latin meaning - that the composer of the square used it as a filler to make the rest of the square work. Someone please correct me if I am wrong. Thanks

Anonymous said...

AREPO is the non latin word, even in translation its a name because it isnt a word.

Anonymous said...

It's been so amazing to read the history behind the Sator Square. I have had the Sator Square since I bought it at a fine furniture store in 2000 and never knew the real meaning behind it until now. I am feeling even more lucky that I have this special Sator Square in my home! I don't know where one can buy one as I was testing and could not find one online to buy it.