I have had a large number of emails in the last week, asking me if there really were Christians at Pompeii. The prompt for this was Waldemar Januszczak's BBC4 programme on the Dark Ages -- which had some amazing stuff, but also claimed that there were Christians at Pompeii. The evidence for this was the scratched word square (like the one above).
It reads: "Sator/Arepo/Tenet/Opera /Rotas/" You'll see its clever "palindromic-ness" . It means (literally translated) "Arepo the sower holds the wheels at his work". But, as is often pointed out, the letters can be re-arranged into two "pater noster"s in the sign of a cross with a couple of "a"s and "o"s left over -- as in (converting to Greek) "alpha and omega". So it looks as if there could be a Christian significance: "our father" plus alpha and omega.
This "game" is found in all kind of places in the Roman world (including Cirencester) and it is often thought to be evidence of Christianity. One has been discovered in the palaestra in Pompeii ... but is it really evidence of Christianity as W J insisted in his programme? Probably not.