Romano-British acrostic or word-square. A section of painted wall-plaster with an inscription scratched into the plaster, dating from the second century AD. Found during excavations at Victoria Road, Cirencester, in 1868.The acrostic is one of only six in the world. One other example is known from this country, found during an excavation in Manchester in 1968. Two others were found at Pompeii and two at Duro-Europos. The inscription consists of five words which read the same both across, down and back to front. The acrostic is held by many to be a secret Christian sign used as a talisman and composed sometime before 79 AD. The literal translation has been the subject of much debate. Most commonly it is said to mean, 'The great sower Arepo holds the wheel with force.' The word TENET (holds) forms a central cross to the design; this is a traditional Christian symbol. The twenty-five letters can be re-arranged as APATERNOSTERO (repeated twice). This contains both the word Paternoster (an amalgram of the first two words of the Lord's Prayer) and the A and O, alpha and omega, referring to Christ as the beginning and the end. A community of Christians could have been worshipping secretly in Corinium. Christianity was banned for much of the Roman period. Other theories have postulated Orphic, Mithraic and Jewish origins. No one denies that the cryptogram was used by Christians at a later stage, but there is no conclusive evidence of it original use being Christian.The acrostic was found in a garden near Victoria Road which was being levelled. Many Roman coins and tiles were found there. For many years it was the only example known of its type, although a similar form but with the words in reverse order had been found in Eygptian writing of the late fourth or fifth century. In 1925 and 1936, however, examples of the square were found in Pompeii.