Monday, 10 December 2007

Sator Square

From Wikipedia
The Sator Square contains a Latin palindrome featuring the words SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS written in a square so that they may be read top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top, left-to-right, and right-to-left. It's an example of a word square.

The usual translation is as follows:

Sator : 'Sower', 'planter'
Arepo : Likely an invented proper name; its similarity with arrepo, from ad repo, 'I creep towards', is coincidental
Tenet : 'he holds'
Operā : '(with) work', '(with care)', '(with) effort'
Rotas : 'wheels'

Two possible translations of the phrase are 'The sower Arepo holds the wheels with effort' and 'The sower Arepo leads with his hand (work) the plough (wheels).' C. W. Ceram read the square boustrophedon (in alternating directions), with tenet repeated. This produces Sator opera tenet; tenet opera sator, translated: 'The Great Sower holds in his hand all works; all works the Great Sower holds in his hand.' (Ceram 1958, p. 30)

The word arepo is enigmatic, appearing nowhere else in Latin literature. Most of those who have studied the Sator Square agree that it is a proper name, either an adaptation of a non-Latin word or a name invented specifically for this sentence. Jerome Carcopino thought that it came from a Celtic, specifically Gaulish, word for plough. David Daube argued that it represented a Hebrew or Aramaic rendition of the Greek Αλφα ω, or "Alpha-Omega" (cf. Revelation 1:8) by early Christians. J. Gwyn Griffiths contended that it came, via Alexandria, from the attested Egyptian name Ḥr-Ḥp, which he took to mean "the face of Apis". (For more on these arguments see Griffiths, 1971 passim.)

The oldest known representation of the Sator Square was found in the ruins of Herculaneum. Others were found in excavations at Corinium (modern Cirencester) and Dura-Europos (in modern Syria).

Other Sator Squares are on the wall of the Duomo of Siena, on the pavement outside the church of the Knights in Valetta, Malta and on the tombstone of composer Anton von Webern, who experimented with the Sator Square in a musical way.

An example of the Sator Square found in Manchester is considered by some authorities to be the earliest evidence of Christianity in Britain.

Other authorities believe the Sator Square was Mithraic in origin.

The Sator Square is a four-times palindrome, and some have attributed magical properties to it, considering it one of the broadest magical formulas in the occident; for example, the 19th-century Pennsylvania Dutch used it to protect cattle from witchcraft.