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1. "Wings," "Axe" and "Egg" by Simmias of Rhodes (c. 325 B.C.E.)
2. "Carmen IX" by Publilius Optatianus Porfyrius, (c. 325 C.E.)
3. "Carmen XXII" by Publilius Optatianus Porfyrius, (c. 325 C.E.)
4. Mosaic in the abbey of Al-Asnan, Algeria, (c. 300 C.E.)
5. "Crux mihi certa salus" by Venantius Fortunatus (c. 550-600)
6. "Ex torqvet hoc sorte..." by Venantius Fortunatus (c. 550-600)
7. "Crux, decus es mundi..." by Alcuin (c. 790-800)
8. "Inclyta si cupias sancti..." by Josephus Scottus (9th century)

The earliest known pattern poems take three distinct forms. The first, which can be called "shaped poetry," arose in Greece, with the most well-known poems penned by Simmias of Rhodes around 325 B.C.E. In these, the words of each poem are arranged in a visual shape pertinent to the subject matter.

Pattern poems of the second type are called "carmina cancellata" or "carmina quadrata," and they are prevalent in Latin poetry throughout the classical Roman era and the early Middle Ages. In these poems, letters are arranged in a strict grid (a "quadratum") which reads as once complete poem from left to right, line by line. However, certain letters are "cancelled" (drawn with a different color of ink, or isolated in geometric patterns), and these highlighted letters spell out smaller poems hidden within the larger one, somewhat like modern word-search puzzles.

Poems of the third type, called "labyrinthi cubici" (cubical mazes), arise from the tradition of magic squares. In these poems, the letters are arranged such that they can be read in any number of directions to spell out the same phrase. Early poems of this type were intended as magical spells or chants, but like other ancient forms of writing and art, they were handily adapted for Christian purposes in the first millennium of the common era.

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