Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sator Square

Marie Antoinette once said that she did not believe in ghosts but she was afraid of them. So it is with mysteries, puzzles and phenomenon. I remain a sceptic but, at the same time, I admit that there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy.

Lyall Watson once wrote a book called Supernature. His hypothesis was that between the realms of the natural and the supernatural was an area he called Supernature, that area in which science had simply not yet advanced far enough to understand and explain things that we currently regard as supernatural.

Take Penn and Teller, for instance. We all watch magic and wonder how the tricks are achieved. We know that what we see are tricks, that the woman in the box is not really cut in half and rejoined but we marvel because we don’t know how it’s done. It’s magic. Until Penn and Teller show us and then all the magic is gone. We see how easy it was to fool us and what had been amazing is now simply sleight of hand, distraction and trickery.

See, for instance,

Which brings me to a mystery which has not yet been explained, the Sator Squre:


Following are comments about the puzzle:

-  The Sator Square is a word square containing a Latin palindrome featuring the words SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTA. The words are written in a way that they may be read top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top, left-to-right, and right-to-left. The words may also be read boustrophedon (”ox-turning”), that is, bi-directional like oxen in ploughing.

- The earliest known appearance of the square was found in the ruins of Pompeii, which was buried in the ash of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD.

- Apart from numerous examples throughout Rome, it has been found on walls in England, Syria, France, Malta and Portugal. It has been found on drinking vessels and artefacts, with examples also being found in Africa and the Americas.

- One example found in Manchester and dating from the 2nd century AD is believed to be evidence of the earliest Christianity in Britain. The examples found in England, at Manchester and at Cirencester (below), are more correctly Rotas Squares in that the first word is Rotas rather than the more traditional Sator:

- The translation of the words is still open to debate, the words having defied translation into a meaningful sentence.

-  Some translations that have been put forward are:
'The sower Arepo holds the wheels with effort'

"The farmer Arepo uses his plough as his form of work."

'The sower Arepo leads with his hand (work) the plough (wheels)."
Why would such an ordinary phrase of no consequence spread world wide from Rome?

One commentator believes that the correct translation, in terms of meaning as well as literal wording, is:
"God holds the plough, but you turn the furrows."
Another highly regarded workable translation is
"The Great Sower holds in his hand all works; all works the Great Sower holds in his hand."
- One author has argued that the Sator Square is actually a dedication to Mithras, a deity worshipped by the Romans (the subject of a previous Bytes post) and that there are further anagrams and palindromes within the Square, see:

-  Other writers have noted that using the letters in the Square, it is possible to form a vertical and horizontal Pater Noster (“Our Father”), with two A’s and two O’s left over.  These letters are argued to represent Alpha (beginning) and Omega (end), with the Pater Noster cross alleged to have been a  Christian symbol to alert Christians of the presence of other Christians.

Whatever the answer, it is interesting.


  1. well i know everything there is to know about rome and the sator square was a way for them to worship christ in silence its a code all the words can be read backwords and spell out the another word on the puzzle besides tenet and it goes up and down and side to side tomake a cross

  2. Latin Squares of order 4 x 4 can be connected to the elements fire, wind, earth and air, if we designate each of the four digits in a 4 x 4 Latin Square with an element, using their colour characteristics. Each combination can be identified with a Ruling Planet. Read more about it on my blog:

  3. The Sator has been describe in earth measured


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.