An example of a ROTAS-SATOR square can be seen at the Mediterranean Gallery of the Manchester Museum. Following is a a quick and dirty collation of Classics-list comments on the ROTAS-SATOR square --

                R O T A S
                O P E R A
                T E N E T
                A R E P O
                S A T O R

Some references mentioned repeatedly:

  1. Walter O. Moeller: The Mithraic Origin and Meanings of the ROTAS-SATOR Square (Leiden: Brill, 1973).
  2. John Ferguson: The Religions of the Roman Empire (Cornell U.P., 1970), p.168.
  3. Edith Kovach in ``The Clearing House Column'' of Classical Outlook, issue of December/January 85-86.

The discussion will be found at

gopher:// (mirrored here)

> John T. Quinn posted:
> A.R. Burn discusses it in his anthology of Latin
> inscriptions from Britain.  "Arepo" appears to be a
> proper name, "Arepo the Sower holds the wheels at
> work."  Burn notes that the square was found in
> Herculaneum; if not originally Christian, it soon
> was adopted by such believers, perhaps because
> the letters can be rearranged thus:
>                 P
>                 A
>         A       T       O
>                 E
>                 N
>                 0
>                 S
>         A       T       O
>                 E
>                 R
> The excess A's and O's stand for alpha and
> omega, as in "I am the Alpha and the Omega."

Similarly, in the third thread, Barbara Mann:
> There is an explanation of this square or acrostic on the very first page
> of a book by Robert Milburn entitled Early Christian Art and
> Architecture, Univ. of California Press, 1988.  Milburn explains that it
> is basically a secret code because it can be rearranged into the form of
> a cross, with the opening words of the Lord's prayer, A Paternoster O,
> going both vertically and horizontally, intersecting at the letter N.
>                                 A
>                                 P
>                                 A
>                                 T
>                                 E
>                                 R
>                          A PATERNOSTER O
>                                 O
>                                 S
>                                 T
>                                 E
>                                 R
>                                 O	
> Milburn gives a list of references in his footnotes, including one to an
> article by D. Fishwick, "On the origin of the Rotas-Sator square" in
> Harvard Theological Review, 57 (1964) no pagination.

Andrew Fear recalled:
> As can be seen there's a lot of debate (I suspect to little purpose) about
> this square. I think it also features in the pseudo-magic book The Sacred
> magic of Abrahmelin (sp?) which was important in the Golden Dawn cult.

Bob Ingria:
> The full title is: _The Book of The Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin The
> Mage_, translated by S. L. Macgregor-Mathers, who is supposed to have
> found it in the arsenal library in Paris.  S. L. Macgregor-Mathers
> was the head, or, as the G.:D:. members would have put it, ``the outer
> head'' of the order.  (The inner head was a disembodied spirit.)
> The G.:D:. were also big on the ``Enochian'' language transcribed by
> Dr. Dee from his experiments in skrying with Edward Kelly.  Some of
> the Enochian ``texts'' were also arranged in squares, of much larger
> size than the Rotas-Sator magic square.

David J. MacDonald:
> That damn word square shows up all over the Roman Empire, or at least all
> over the West and decent portion of the East as I remember.  There have
> been a dozen different interpretations over the years, as I remember.  I
> remember one work argued it was Mithraic.  It has been a long time since I
> read anything about it, but it seems to me as best I remember than no one
> interpretation had gained univeral credence.

Bruce Macbain:
> Nobody really knows what the darned thing means.  The connection with
> Christianity is not accepted by all.  'Arepo' is unknown as a word or
> a proper name.  "Arepo holds the wheels with effort (by work, etc.) is
> more or less nonsense, although some have strained to see a reference
> to the prophet Ezekiel's wheel.  And yet, the inscriptions are found
> as far apart as Italy and Britain...must mean something!

David Sider:
> Miroslav Marcovich wrote on this cryptic message in ZPE, and now
> reprinted in one of his collected articles volumes published by ICS.

ZPE = Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik.

George Pesely:
> >From the ICS 1993 Marcovich Festschrift, page 12, item 205:
> Sator Arepo = Georgos Harpon, Harpocrates
> ZPE 50 (1983) 155-171
> Reprinted in
> Studies in Graeco-Roman Religions and Gnosticism

Fred Jenkins:
> Miro's article is reprinted in his Studies in Greco-Roman Religions and
> Gnosticism (Brill, 1988).  The original appearance was in ZPE 50 (1983) 155-
> 171.  For those who want to pursue the subject, there is also a substantial
> article, "Satorquadrat," in RE Supplementband XV, cols. 477-565.

Laval Hunsucker:
> I think that you will find what you need in the book by Ulrich Ernst
> entitled _Carmen figuratum : Geschichte des Figurengedichts von
> den antiken Ursprüngen bis zum Ausgang des Mittelalters_. - Koeln [etc.]
> : Boehlau, 1991. - (_Pictura et poesis_ ; Bd.1). His tenth chapter (p.
> 429-459, with numerous illustrations) is entitled "Das Sator-Quadrat in
> Antike und Mittelalter" (1.: "Zum Stand der Forschungsdiskussion"; 2.:
> "Neue Deutungsperspektiven").

Eugene N. Lane:
> A brief discussion of the Rotas-Sator square is to be found in John
> Ferguson, The Religions of the Roman Empire, Ithaca, Cornell University
> Press, first published 1970, p. 168 and Pl. 70. Hope this is useful.

Edgar Krentz:
> The best discussion of this mystery square known to me is the following:
> Hildebrecht Hommel, "Die Satorformel und ihr Ursprung," pp. 84-130 in
> _Sebasmata. Studien zur antiken Religionsgeschichte und zum frühen
> Christentum_ I. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 31.
> Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1983.
> The work was originally published in _Theologia Viatorum. Jahrbuch der
> Kirchl. Hochschule Berlin_ 4 (1952) 133-180, and first reprinted in H.
> Hommel. _Schöpfer und Erhalter. Studien zum Problem Christentum und
> Antike_. Berlin: Lettner Verlag, 1956, pp. 32-79 with additions on pp.
> 141-146.
> Hommel offers a number of different suggestions for decoding the square and
> includes comprehensive references to earlier bibliography in his notes.

Gerhard Koeppel:
> There is quite a bit on this "magic square".  I can give you one reference:
> Friedrich Focke, "Sator Arepo.  Abenteuer eines magischen Quadrates"
> Würzburger Jahrbuch 3 (1948) 367-401.