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About three years ago I was looking into a Latin inscription which is found in numerous places throughout the former Roman Empire. I came to a conclusion with regard to it's meaning and significance that I have not seen before. I believe my interpretation is unique and plausible. So, I thought I would share it here.

For Wiki-reference: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sator_Square

I tend to identify existing theories for the meaning of the Sator Square as falling into two categories:

1- a translation that reads something like "The farmer, Arepo, slowly ploughs the land"

2- any Christian interpretation or mystical meaning.

I discount the first because it, to me, seems to lack any significance. I discount the second because I believe that the Sator Square pre-dates Christianity.

I have shared my Sator Square interpretation in a handful of replies to blogs and on my Facebook page. I have found that my interpretation is really very simple at heart, an my argument founders the more I expound upon it. So, I will, here, be brief.

 The Wikipedia entry offers some translations for the words that compose the Sator Square. There are more expanded translation offerings that can be found on the web. Here are the suggestions from the Wikipedia entry:


(from serere=to sow) Sower, planter; founder, progenitor (usually divine); originator


unknown, likely a proper name, either invented or, perhaps, of Egyptian origin


(from tenere=to hold) holds, keeps; comprehends; possesses; masters; preserves


(noun) work, care; aid, service, effort/trouble; (from opus): works, deeds.


(accusative plural of rota) wheels


My interpretation is:

Keepers of the ancient knowledge of the wheelwrights.

I translate Arepo to ancient using three parts of the logic from the Wikipedia article, those being: 

- it is a made-up name to make the puzzle work

- it would be recognized as a persons name, even if it were unique.

- it would synthesize with the wiki-offered hypothesis that the word is similar to a word that means "to creep towards". I am suggesting that it would be interpreted as slow, sundry, accumulated, old, and respected, while also being recognized as a name.

Here comes the part of my theory that I feel I have failed to explain in the past. The Sator Square was not meant to be read. It was not meant to be studied or learned. It was only meant to be recognized like a marketing gimmick or logo. Of course it had meaning, and it's cleverness would be recognized by nearly anyone, literate or not;  it was it's recognizability to both literate and non-literate people, combined with the innate appeal, which led to it's adaptation.

What was its Purpose? For what was it adapted?

I believe that it was adapted to be the recognizable logo for both a guild of engineers and anyone such as slaves, soldiers or conscripts, who would be engaged in construction or engineering activities. This logo would be found on offices, warehouses, construction sites and stockyards where engineers and laborers would frequently be expected to do business. Also, and very importantly, it would be found in areas where labor crews were martialed for tasks, or persons entering the city, from throughout the empire, would be expected to report if they had business or responsibilities with regard to construction and engineering. Slaves or soldiers would be able to inquire about and identify such places and facilities by making reference to this symbol, regardless of their language or rank.

Cult associations:

Roman society was built around cult associations. I would argue that any endeavor or organization would be built around familiar Roman cult practices. An engineering guild would be no different; it's organizational structure would resemble typical cult worship. As such, such an organization would be noticed by competing cults and would run-afoul of them since its members and leadership would be of a different class of people: laborers, slaves and engineers; as opposed to Aristocrats, senators, priests and soothsayers.

Julius Caesar is said to have outlawed craft-guilds. Julius Caesar's reign is also said to mark the beginning of the worship of living men. Craft guilds and associated cults would be necessarily in competition with, and need to be run and managed outside of and without regard for Imperial dignity and sanction. Yet, these groups of workers and engineers would still need to function and their organizational schemes survive. They would need to outlast and not compete with any state and imperial cults. Their organization and function would need to survive changes in leadership in the legions. So their organizational structure would need to be minimalized, hidden and secret. As such they would be tolerated.

So, I am proposing that the Sator Square was a necessarily outward symbol to an otherwise hidden and secret organization that kept construction and engineering projects and establishments moving forward.


That is kind of it. It's not real sexy but I think it's plausible, and I think it is simply a better explanation than we now have. I'll edit and clarify this a bit going forward.







Edited by Michael Clark
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