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Sator Square

Religion Classical Greece and Rome Middle Ages Middle Ages/History Cryptography Cryptography/Computer science Latin Christianity Jewish history Occult Mysticism

The Sator Square (or Rotas Square) is a word square containing a five-word Latin palindrome. The earliest form has ROTAS as the top line, but in time the version with SATOR on the top line became dominant. It is a 5X5 square made up of five 5-letter words, thus consisting of 25 letters in total. These 25 letters are all derived from 8 Latin letters: 5 consonants (S, T, R, P, N) and 3 vowels (A, E, O).

In particular, this is a square 2D palindrome, which is when a square text admits four symmetries: identity, two diagonal reflections, and 180 degree rotation. As can be seen, the text may be read top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top, left-to-right, or right-to-left; and it may be rotated 180 degrees and still be read in all those ways.

The Sator Square is the earliest dateable 2D palindrome. It was found in the ruins of Pompeii, at Herculaneum, a city buried in the ash of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. It consists of a sentence written in Latin: "Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas." Its translation has been the subject of speculation with no clear consensus; see below for details.

Other 2D Palindrome examples may be found carved on stone tablets or pressed into clay before being fired.

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