The square reads the same up or down as well as forward or backward. However, the words do not collectively seem to mean anything. Individually, sator means "the sower", tenet "holdeth", opera "the works", rotas "the wheels [accusative case]". Arepo is not a Latin word; it is perhaps related to a Celtic root meaning "plough", an interpretation known in XIV Century Byzantium.
SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS
It was observed in the 1920s that the square can be unfolded to say Pater Noster and A[lpha] O[mega]:
The letter "T" (the Tau Cross) clearly occupies a significant position in both the folded and the unfolded versions of the square; in the original folded version "T" is always adjacent to "A" and "O". I notice myself that the unfolded version appears to say Ora! ("Pray!"); if "P" is read as "Rho", it says this around all four sides of the unfolded square. This is interesting, but hardly seems to "explain" why the square was invented.
A P O A T E R P-A-T-E-R-N-O-S-T-E-R O S T E O R A
---Norman Hugh Redington
Under construction --- far from complete! Read with caution.
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