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The cryptographic (Laconian) relay (5th c. B.C.)

It was a thin band (3 mm) of finished leather, which the sender wrapped around a cylindrical piece of wood and on it wrote out the message horizontally. Then, he unwrapped it and handed it to the messenger. No one but the recipient could read it, who rewound it onto a piece of wood of equal intersection. It was used from the 7th century B.C. to exchange messages between the ephors, the King and the Commander of the Lacedaemonians. On this specific relay we can read the desperate message sent by the Lacedaemonians to Sparta after their defeat in the naval battle of Kyzikos: “The ships are lost, Mindaros was killed, the men are starving, we don’t know what to do!”

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