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Friday 14 May 2021

The pleasure of the senses The square of Pompeii

The square of Pompeii

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Little or nothing to do with enigmistics, the Pompeii square constitutes in any case a great ancestry for modern geometric games in which the scheme is formed by a series of words that intersect according to certain geometries.

This is the brilliant combination that has made generations of scholars struggle, all intent on proving the validity of their thesis. And indeed the most disparate origins (inscriptions in the cathedral of Siena and on the walls of French houses and castles, mosaics of Lombard altars and various manuscripts of the fourth century) could not constitute similar and useful sources for a univocal interpretation of the 25 letters, which, not only do they intersect but, since the words are also double-faced (the first with the last, the second with the penultimate, the third with itself and therefore even palindrome), they allow the formation of the second square:

The square of Pompeii
The square of Pompeii

Other findings led to attribute to the square even thaumaturgical and sorcerer virtues, but most scholars were always oriented to consider it a symbol of Christianity, one of the cruces dissimulatae adopted by believers in those difficult times of persecution; even more so when, in 1868, in the ruins of Cirencester, in Great Britain, traces of the same square were found on a third century support. It is in this direction that the evangelist pastor Felix Grosser rearranged the letters so as to propose two Pater Noster on the cross, preceded and followed by the letters A and O, corresponding toalpha and omega (beginning and end of the things of the world).

paternoster on the cross
Paternoster on the cross

The whole question was again proposed following the findings made in Pompeii (in 1925 and 1936) of two graffiti reproducing the same magical square.

Sal Kierkia said about an analogous square in the "Quichua" language at the conference on The puzzles in the world (Capri, 1992): an Andean legend tells of four fountains that refer to each other the phrase "Micuc Isutu Cuyuc Utusi Cucim", which follows the Latin combination in all and also allows the formation of a second square:

The structure resembles the numerical magic square, where numbers are inserted instead of letters so that the sum of each row, each column and the two diagonals is always the same, which represents its "magic constant" of the square (33 in the case of the square reproduced here).

Square of Pompeii
Square of Pompeii

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