Publius Paquius Proculus, they say, invented pizza almost 2,000 years ago. I don’t think he did, and anyway, that’s not the coolest thing about Proculus, a very successful baker and sometime politician, who was living in Pompeii the day Mt. Vesuvius erupted. He, his house and his family were buried. Then, centuries later, when archeologists unearthed his home they discovered a message, etched onto one of his household walls. It looked like this:
As you can see, it’s five Latin words, SATOR, AREPO, TENET, OPERA and ROTAS, each of them five letters long, arranged in a square. You can read them left to right, right to left, top to bottom or bottom to top.
What is this? Well, obviously it’s a very clever palindrome (palindromes are word sequences that say the same thing forward or backward; this one’s a super-version, going up and down as well.) It translates, roughly to…
“The Farmer Arepo works with a plow.”
Why put something like this on your wall? It wasn’t just on the wall at Publius Paquius Proculus’ place; there was another on a column near Pompeii’s amphitheater. Other versions (same words) were found at Roman sites in Germany, Britain and France.
Nobody knows why this cryptic square was so popular 2,000 years ago. Scholars suggest dark reasons (see my note below) but there’s a simple explanation: it’s fun. When you look at it, up, down, left, right, it keeps saying the same thing, and you smile. Romans liked that. So do we. Symmetrical puzzles are very pleasing…(Continue article at link below.)
Re-blogged from: http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2012/04/26/151311708/the-delights-of-reading-upside-down?sc=gplus&cc=npr