The ROTAS OPERA TENET AREPO SATOR square and Pater noster

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Per Starbäck

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Jul 28, 2007, 8:37:03 AM7/28/07
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I have discovered an item from 1924 that has been overlooked in the
Rotas-Sator square literature. That the letters in the palindromic

ROTAS
OPERA
TENET
AREPO
SATOR

word square can be arranged as a cross

P
A
T
E
R
PATERNOSTER
O
S
T
E
R

leaving AO AO (purportively signifying Alpha and Omega) was discovered
independently by several people in the 1920's. That was then widely
believed to be a Christian origin of that word square, at least until
the occurrences of the square in Pompeii were found, and by some even
after that. (I think most people today agree that it is just a
coincidence; and not a very startling one at that, thinking of how
many anagrams you can make from those letters.)

Rose Mary Sheldon writes in "The Sator Rebus: An Unsolved Cryptogram?"
in Cryptologia 27, 3 (July 2003), pp. 233-287 that it was discovered
independently by

* Felix Grosser, "Ein neuer Vorschlag zur Deutung der Sator-Formel,"
Archiv für Religionswissenschaft 24 (1926), 165-169.

* Sigurd Agrell, "Runornas talmystik och dess antika förebild,"
Skrifter utgivna av Vetenskaps-Societeten i Lund 6 (1927), 31ff.
He first introduced the theory in a lecture in 1925.

* Christian Frank, Deutsche Gaue 25 (1924), 76.

The same three are mentioned by Duncan Fishwick in "On the Origins of
the Rotas-Sator Square" (Harvard Theological Review 57 (1964), 39-54).
Even though Grosser wasn't first it was from him the idea spread and
became popular.

I recently discovered another independent discovery of this from 1924,
and early 1924 at that, so probably even before Christian Frank. That
is:

T. D. Hickes. "Roman Square Palindrome: Inscription at Cirencester",
in Notes and Queries, February 16, 1924, p. 119.

Hickes wisely leaves the possibility open that this might be a
coincidence.

So in future overviews of the Rotas-Sator square history I think
Rev. Hickes should be mentioned alongside of Grosser et al.

(If you have an online subscription you can access the article at
<http://nq.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/CXLVI/jan16/119-b>.
At <http://nq.oxfordjournals.org/content/volCXLVI/issuejan16/index.dtl>
it is described as

T. D. HICKS
ROMAN SQUARE PALINDROME: INSCRIPTION AT CIRENCESTER
Notes and Queries 1924 CXLVI: 119; doi:10.1093/nq/CXLVI.jan16.119-b

but his name as published is actually Hickes and the date is actually
in February instead. I will contact Oxford Journals about these
errors.)

--
Per Starbäck, <per.st...@gmail.com>
"Life is but a gamble! Let flipism chart your ramble!"

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