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Did ancients cipher messages?

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Scytale
Scytale | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Did the ancients cipher messages? Of course – they used the so-called Laconian cane for this purpose (scytale).

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.

Sources
  • Note to Cicero's letter to Attic sent from Cumanum, 3rd May 49 BCE (Att. X 10)

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