Did the ancients cipher messages? Of course – they used the so-called Laconian cane for this purpose. The Ephores, Spartan officials, had the habit of sending orders to chiefs being abroad, writing them across the strip of skin wrapped around a stick of a certain thickness; after expanding the bar, the text disintegrated into groups of non-meaningful letters, and the readable became again after winding on an identical size of a cane.
“Laconian cane” – it was also the proverbial term for a short and unambiguous statement.
Note to Cicero's letter to Attic sent from Cumanum, 3rd May 49 BCE (Att. X 10)
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