[an error occurred while processing this directive] Skytales:
In Sparta, one of the provinces of ancient Greece, one of the few uses of a transposition cipher can be found. A transposition cipher is a system of encryption where the positions of letters, rather than the letters themselves, are changed. For example, changing
THEQUICKBROWNFOX into FOXTHEBROWNQUICK would be an example of a transposition cipher.
The Spartans, however, did better than that simple transposition. In the fifth century BC, they used a system that consisted of a thin sheet of papyrus wrapped around a staff. This is now known as a Skytale. If a person wanted to send a message in secrecy, he could write it down the length of the staff so that when the papyrus was unwrapped, the message would be unintelligible. To read it, the recipient would have to re-wrap the papyrus with an identical stick. Only then would the letters line up.
Such an encryption system would be foolish to use today, because if the parchment fell in a modern enemy’s hands, it would be cracked within minutes. However, 2500 years ago, the percent of people who could read and write was much smaller than it is today. Therefore, at the time Skytales provided a secure method of communication.
The Greeks also provide one of the first literary references to cryptography. In "Illiad" by Homer, Bellerophon is sent to the king with a secret message telling the king to kill him. (Note. Bellerophon was the mythological man who rode Pegasus, the winged horse.) The king tried to send Bellerophon to his death by having him fight several mythological monsters, but he triumphed each time.