Do You Know the SATOR Square?

In this article we propose to you an unpublished and complete translation of this mysterious inscription by giving it a plausible interpretation according to its true origin. 


This Latin inscription is known in the whole Roman Empire since the first century AD and the oldest inscriptions are attested in Pompeii (1). This fact is interesting: the first SATOR Squares preserved and which survived the eruption of Vesuvius are thus well before the year 79 after Jesus Christ. 

Another interesting fact: this SATOR Square can be read in all directions without losing its meaning! Because the Latin language allows it, this multipalindrome has the same meaning read from top to bottom and bottom to top, as well as from left to right and right to left; it can also be read in reverse, in lines as in columns: either SATOR-AREPO-TENET-OPERA-ROTAS or ROTAS-OPERA-TENET-AREPO-SATOR; and even in boustrophedon: either SATOR-OPERA-TENET-AREPO-ROTAS or ROTAS-AREPO-TENET-OPERA-SATOR.

Even more surprisingly: we discovered that this inscription also retains all its reading properties... when written in three dimensions! (See the 3D illustration of the inscription in the following article: Advice from the SATOR Square).

Moreover, its literal (and still provisional) translation is the following one: "The sower - arepo (?) - holds carefully (2) the wheels" or "These are the wheels which carefully maintains - arepo (?) - the sower". It is easy to understand the essence of this inscription in its first reading with elementary notions of Latin. Nevertheless, the meaning and function of this square have remained obscure to many people over the centuries. We think that we should not complicate this reading which should have been clear for the contemporaries of these inscriptions in the first century after Jesus Christ. We are persuaded, furthermore, that it is not necessary to fall back on esotericism or Kabbalistic research to grasp its meaning. Moreover, these research or teaching methods have not succeeded in convincing us with logical arguments (3).


SATOR means in Latin the sower and again: the planter, the craftsman. the author, the creator, the father (4).

As the sower cannot be called AREPO, knowing that AREPO cannot be a proper noun (see below the explanation given in the section: MEANING OF AREPO), thus we wonder who could be this famous sower.

If he had been a mythical divinity, his name would have appeared more precisely, as Iasion, son of Zeus for example, perhaps the most famous sower of the Greco-Latin mythology. It would have been necessary to mention one among the hundreds of Greco-Roman divinities which existed to be sure of whom it was. Leaving the artistic blur in epigraphy, according to the well-known example of the "unknown god" (5), does not prompt us to think immediately of Iasion.

If we look more concretely in history for the name of a famous farmer, we find Lucius Cincinnatus, in the 5th century before Christ. Honoured by Cato the Elder in particular for his Roman virtues (rectitude, honesty, integrity, frugality and lack of personal ambition, dedication and working capacity, etc.), Cincinnatus nevertheless knew how to protect and defend his countrymen by notable laws and a proven military strategy (6). However, it seems unlikely that 500 years after his existence (it is about half a millennium!) one would allude to Cincinnatus without naming him specifically.

So we have to look for another lead and find another explanation.

One of the two Latin inscriptions discovered in Pompeii can give us an additional indication: it is in the house of Paquius Publius Proculus and his wife. This inscription surrounded with a line its two TENET, which forms a very visible Greek cross in its center.

Now the cross reminds the Christian symbol; so it lets suggest a more spiritual inspiration and vocation of this inscription. Therefore, the translation of the square may even be more cosmological in the light of this discovery: "The sower (author, creator) - arepo (?) - holds carefully the wheels (the discs of the stars ... therefore, the universe)".

It also pushes us to look further into space, but not into time, since, as he was seen, the allusion to a person must be relatively contemporary with the date of creation of the inscription so that this allusion is understandable and so that we know to whom we refer.

So all we have to do now is look for the traces of a man who lived short time before the eruption of Vesuvius and whose notoriety was present in the Italian peninsula before the year 79 after Jesus Christ.

With all these prerequisites, we only have to consider a man who lived in Palestine and who, although known, liked to act discreetly. A man who, about the year 30 AD, presented himself as a sower, in a hidden way howewer, but explicit, in the very first parable he taught to the people, the famous parable of the sower (7).

The key of this square consists in deciphering who is behind this SATOR. Considering that the sower could be the Christ, we enter a new, totally new world, both for the Romans and ourselves.   


So let us continue our research. It should be remembered - and it is necessary not to forget it - that SATOR also has the meaning of father, in addition to its other senses of: planter, sower, craftsman, author and creator.

Also, even without going very far in the square's analysis, one easily discovers this link between sower and father. The same meaning moreover is contained in the original verb of SATOR word (sero, sevi, satum which means: to plant, to sow; to spread, to procreate, to engender, to create).

That is what is interesting: a sower is also a father. Figuratively speaking the sower is the father of the plants he gave birth to by throwing their seeds into the ground.

Even more interesting: if we use the 25 letters of this square (8) and assemble them again as in the game of Scrabble, we find the Greek cross in 2 dimensions, but in another way, more hidden this time.  

From this anagram - the N of course remaining the unique and central letter of the new cross formed - emerge the first two words of Our Father, the prayer taught by Jesus to his disciples, framed by vowels A and O, Latin versions of the alpha and the omega, the first and the last letter of the Greek alphabet (9).

From all this we can easily deduce that the sower is also the father.


The fact of finding twice Our Father and the A-O in this square leads us to believe that this repetition is well intended: it is not there to fill the holes. In fact, nothing is left to chance in this square (10).

Between us be said and as proof of testimony also, the cross appears well twice in this square: once with the crossing of the two TENET (in a visible way) and a second time with the crossing of the two PATER NOSTER (in a more hidden way).

This square testifies then that the sower is also the father, that the father is hidden in the person of the sower; this square testifies furthermore that the sower is our Father, because SATOR is PATER NOSTER, being the beginning and the end (O-A), the death and the

resurrection (O - A); that a man is God and God became man; that this fact is irrevocable (10).

It is surprising to note that, although as a general rule in epigraphy it is rather the man who tries to address a divinity, here it is the opposite which seems to occur: it is as if God seeks to associate himself with the readers in a mysterious and profound way by wanting to be their Father.

Thus, the Our Father is well included in this square since its creation, since its invention, even if its rediscovery or its rereading has only been made public relatively recently.


Now to AREPO. This word appears only once among all the Latin inscriptions and texts which exist, that is why many people say it is about an hapax legomenon word ("said only once"). We would prefer to affirm that it is an unknown word, since its meaning is completely unknown: this word can therefore neither be a new noun, nor even less a proper name invented for the occasion. As such, it is impossible to guess its meaning.

Nevertheless we are going to do it by taking into account all its context, necessary attitude to decipher any unknown word, and we will see that we can rediscover its meaning in a very simple way, by breaking down AREPO (unknown word) into three (known or recognizable) words: A-RE-EPO.

Thus, following the rules of Latin metric that makes the elision of the E possible, as in poetry and in the oratory art of the rest, we simply read: A R(E) EPO, of that (of this square), I say (I speak); of that I testify, I bear witness to this.

To do this, we latinize the Greek verb eipein (to say, to sing, to recite, to ordain; which is written epo in the simple present), a verb very well known in Greece at that time in its archaic use, but also in its more recent use (11); it is not difficult to imagine that its meaning should not be ignored in Rome. EPO would indeed be an hapax word in itself, but its meaning should really not be so difficult to grasp, being Greek the international language of that time (12).

Furthermore, to be palindrome, A R(E) EPO will also be read, consequently and conversely, OP(E) ERA, where we will find the same merger of the two E into one. OPE ERA means "by the sovereign strength". Ops, opis, feminine, means the strength (it is an ablative of means) and ERA would be the second hapax in this case. 

As we say for example, both now as in Latin in the first century of our era, "with an Herculean strength", we could find here a similar construction where (h)era would be the feminine adjective era of erus, era, erum taken directly from the proper noun Hera which means "the Sovereign". Who did not know then in Greek mythology the two most important divinities, Zeus and Hera, his wife and sister? As the letter h was not pronounced and often was not written either, the word ERA can easily be guessed, in our opinion, as the feminine adjective era "sovereign".

We will propose then rather two hapax (EPO and ERA), with a clear and plausible reading, simple and possible, of AREPO in both directions, what makes us prefer in the end the reading OPE ERA instead of OPERA (13) and this also for reasons of internal logic (14).  


Finally, what is well conceived is clearly stated, said Albert Einstein, paraphrasing in this way Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux. Our proposal for the translation of this simple and profound square is the following: "The sower - I bear witness to this  - supports the whole universe with his sovereign force" and, conversely, "It is the whole universe that with his sovereign strength maintains the sower - I bear witness to this ".

Between us, this way that the lapidary has to challenge the reader, as this insertion in the text "- I bear witness to this -" is frequent in epigraphy (on funeral stelae for example), as it is also in the Bible (15).  


For those who wonder about the origin of the coat of arms of Asturias (province of Spain), it is not to look further the true origin of the Victory Cross: its inspiration certainly comes from the Sator Square whose spread in the Iberian Peninsula must have been well before the episode of the Battle of Covadonga with Pelagius the Conqueror in 722 of our era (an episode which marked moreover the end of the Muslim expansion in Spain, as well as the creation of the Kingdom of Asturias and the beginning of the Reconquista

Furthermore and curiously also, our square prefigures all the later iconography of the cross - adorned with the two Greek letters A-O, as moreover the chrism in the same register - representations which will be common in the first centuries of our era and especially since the 4th (see photo opposite: chrism of the Rome's catacombs where the alpha and the omega appear inverted. See also note 16).

Moreover, for internal coherence's reasons of these two writings, we place the square's dating almost contemporary to the writing of the John's Revelation (66-67), i.e. in the years 60-65. One could even consider this square as the apostle Paul's testament.

In reality, it is not to minimize the Jewish presence in Rome, nor the number of Christians living there in the first century of our era, a fact confirmed also by the book of Acts and the Epistle to the Romans (chap. 16), in addition to the Annals of Tacit and the Eusebius of Caesarea's testimony. Let us not forget either the number of the Christians martyred by Neron in 64 and who unfortunately numbered in the hundreds... This square has thus already been able to serve as a message for Christians among themselves, starting from these difficult times for themselves.  

Since the SATOR Square is composed of 25 letters, it contains 12 vowels and 13 consonants (12-13). In recent decades, opponents of the message of this inscription have taken the same numbers: 12-13, but have inverted them: 13-12, or 1312, to make it a symbol of revolt against the established order.

A fact that leads us to believe that the graffiti 1312 is from the SATOR Square? It is ACAB. Indeed, the symbol 1312 is very often accompanied by the word ACAB. But ACAB is none other than the representation of the numbers 1312 transposed into letters (A=1, B=2, C=3). Only ancient languages such as Latin, Greek and Hebrew have the characteristic of using the letters of their alphabet to represent numbers. However, this is not the case in the English language: the letters do not serve as numbers at the same time. This is why the current usage of 1312 ACAB refers us to a much older practice: we do not think that it is pure coincidence and see in it a reminiscence, unfortunately vitiated, of the SATOR Square.  


In the end, this SATOR Square may have appeared as a Christian secret symbol, a camouflage of the message of the cross, as well in polytheistic or Mithraic circles of that time, which had become less tolerant following the proclamation of the truth, as in times of persecution against Christians for political reasons, because the latter did not accept to worship the emperor.

Nevertheless the message of this square remains clear: it is that of the sower-creator crucified, but resurrected, because he holds everything in his great benevolent and paternal power. This message is an epic to be lived oneself and to be shared with others: it is really the good news of salvation, free, firm and eternal, in Jesus Christ.

The interest, like the very great peculiarity of this square, is that it was written in Latin and that the message of the Gospel spread in this new language - in the form of a summary and a quiz to be discovered - long before the first reliable Latin translation of the Bible, the Vulgate, which will appear complete only a few centuries later, since 405 in reality (17). Let us not forget that in 57 after Christ the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans... in Greek.

The additional proof that this square holds an indisputable Christian origin is precisely all the polemic, especially later, coming from the circles (esoteric in particular) which did not accept its message. But by its origin, by its originality, by its function and by its close involvement with the Book of Books, we are convinced that this square is neither magic, nor esoteric, nor cabalistic, nor Celtic, nor even druidic; it is more than that: it is a message of life.

Finally, there would be even much more to say about that. Nevertheless, we will conclude with the essential: according to us, this square transmits for the first time in the history of humanity the message of the Gospel written in Latin and moreover, in a very condensed form, still including all the Greek and Hebraic cultural baggage of that time. It is the only message of the good news - in Latin - we should know, arising - directly and for the first time - from the western part of the Roman Empire, at the beginning of the second half of the first century of our era.

Quite simply,

Olivier Perret


1. CIL IV Suppl. 3 8622 and CIL IV Suppl. 3 8623. 

2. Opera can be the nominative or the accusative plural of opus, operis, neutral: the works. We prefer the ablative of opera, ae, feminine: work, activity, care; what can be translated here by an adverb of manner: with care, carefully.

3. To our knowledge, these methods of research that are, among others, esotericism and Kabbalah have not yet been possible: a) to give a translation of this inscription, without even requiring that it be easy to read and understand; b) to explain the meaning of AREPO; c) to explain the meaning of its inverse OPERA by following for OPERA the same reasoning as for understanding AREPO; d) to know how to create at least one other Latin sentence using the same letters of the square, but without forgetting that this inscription has an internal crossover with the letter N and that it is not only a question of creating 5 words of 5 letters, but that they also have to overlap and form by their vertical reading one of the 5 words which the square already contains horizontally in its middle, following the example of the TENET; e) to give a simple explanation of the reason for this inscription, without even requiring to deliver us a message which is at the same time simple and profound; f) and to respect the peculiarities of this Latin inscription in its links with Greek and Hebrew.

Moreover, I should only mention in this order of idea and way of thinking, for example, the article of Paul Veyne, Le carré Sator ou beaucoup de bruit pour rien (À la mémoire de Georges Ville) in: Bulletin de l'Association Guillaume Budé: Lettres d'humanité nº27, December 1968, p. 427-460 (where the title of his article also seems to describe its content) in:, consulted on 2017.06.15.

4. See the Gaffiot dictionary indicated in the bibliography.

5. Acts 17: 23.

6We have not been able to carry out an exhaustive study here of all the sowers and farmers, fictional or not, appearing in Roman epigraphy. This could be a thesis topic for anyone interested in it...

7. The parable of the sower: Matt. 13:3-8,18-23.

8. If we want to respect the rules of word composition of the Scrabble game, we must ensure that this square contain - at least - 26 letters and not 25, because the N of TENET must be doubled since it serves as a crossing of two words (We think for our part that this square can even contain in reality 28 letters: see our note 14).

9. Let us also remember the words of Jesus: I am the Alpha and the Omega... I am the First and the Last... (Rev. 1:8,17; 21:6; 22:13), I and the Father are one (John 10:30,38) and I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6). It still reminds us Isaiah 44:6 This is what the Lord says - Israel's King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.

10. As in the Bible, the number 2 represents the testimony (see for example the 2 tables of the law, the 2 Gospels: the old and the new, the 2 witnesses of Revelation, etc.), the repetition (of a dream or a word) also indicates the firm resolution on the part of his author (see Pharaoh's dreams and the hand's appearance before Belshazzar, for example, where the divine announcement is firm and fulfilled: Gen. 41:32, 45:6-7; Dan. 5:25-30).

11. See the Bailly dictionary indicated in the bibliography.

12. επω which becomes EPO would be today as if I were to say, for example, by taking it from English, the international language of our time: I blog. You can easily understand that this means: I am writing a comment or an article in my blog...

13. Lectio difficilior potior: we prefer the most difficult version or lesson, as the principle of text criticism in philology requires.

In addition, the fusion or elision of the E of OPEERA is called synalea : these are two vowels pronounced from a single voice emission, OPERA.

Moreover, this process is also found in the other inscription found in Pompeii, the SATOR ROTAS Square, as well as in its counter graffiti: see note 6 of our article in

14. SATOR-AREEPO-TENNET-OPEERA-ROTAS: 28 letters in total. EE-NN-EE are 3 groups of 2 letters each merging into one, 3 in 1, this also reminds us of the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Christ is the most visible person of the Trinity, the Father and the Holy Spirit, for their part, are more discreet and deeper in the personal experience of the Christian. So Christ is in the center like the N of the square (Rev. 5:6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne).

If we want to stay with our 26 letters, however, also remember that the value of God's name, the famous YHWH tetragram, is 26 in Hebrew.

15. See in particular Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20; Heb. 10:7; Rev. 13:18; 22:20. In fact, this insertion can be understood in several ways: either it is the lapidary who speaks to us (or God speaking directly to his readers), or still it is the reader, who after having read and understood the meaning of the message, affirms it and proclaims it in turn for having made it his own.

16. We reproduce an image of the article taken from D. Mariano André Puente, Catedrático de Latín, El crismón: Historia y Evolución, p. 119 in, consulted on 2017.06.15. 

17. Even the INRI (Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum: Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews), another famous inscription in iconography, is also much later.


Concerning especially the origin of this square, besides the corpus of the Latin inscriptions (CIL) and the F. Gaffiot (Latin-French, Hachette Bookshop, Paris, 1934) / A. Bailly (Greek-French, Hachette Bookshop, Paris, 1960) dictionnaries, we have consulted some articles and very interesting books:

· Charles Cartigny, Le carré magique, testament de Saint-Paul, Diffusion Picard, Paris, 1984 (with new analysis of AREPO)

· Nicolas Vinel, Le judaïsme caché du carré SATOR de Pompéi, in Revue de l'histoire des religions, Ed. Armand Colin, Paris, 2/2006 varia p.173-194

· Jean Subiran, L'élision dans la poésie latine, Paris, C. Klincksieck, 1966

· Felix Grosser, Ein neuer Vorschlag zur Deutung der Sator-Formel, Archiv für Religionwissenschaft, XXIV 1926, pp. 165-169 (with the rediscovery of the Pater Noster)

· Jean-Marie Mathieu, Le carré SATOR, le Pater Noster et la Croix, Le Cep nº44, July 2008 (Centre d'Etudes et de Prospectives sur la science: ) in, consulted on 2017.03.25

· Leonor E. Molero Alcaraz, Comentario filológico de un epígrafe latino (CLE 960), in, consulted on 2017.02.28 (with very pertinent general epigraphical comments)

· The Holy Bible, New International Version (NIV) in: (Col. 2:3 - because in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge

Some comments...

Hi. I'm trying to do more digging into the Sator Square for my movie analysis video on Tenet, and I wanted to know if it's okay by you if I referenced your blog. Also, if there isn't an issue, I'd love to ask you follow-up questions to clarify once I've re-read and routed all your sources proper. Thanks (Ankit Ojha, 2020.11.06)

Olivier replied: Dear Ankit, Thank you for your comment. I agree with both of your proposals: you can indicate my blog (or the link to my blog) in your new video, as well as ask me any questions you wish: I will try to answer as best I can. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for helping me to learn about the Sator square. I appreciate your comprehensive and critical thinking writing style (Hayley Burnside, U.S.A - 2019.09.25)

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