Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Remember When . . . Secrets Were Cool?

Book VII of Herodotus's Histories ends with a story included solely for its coolness-factor. (Unlike modern historians, Herodotus was all about telling us things solely for coolness--he obviously wasn't concerned about word count.)

See, we hear a little bit about a former king of Sparta who was exiled from his country when he recommended they align themselves with Persia's King Darius. So when he peeps kicked him out, he naturally fled to Persia. When Xerxes launched the campaign against Greece, ex-kingy came along as an adviser.

Now, here's the cool story. Herodotus heard that before the troops left Persia, Damaratus (ex-kingy) sent a message of warning home to Sparta. Kinda irrelevant since it didn't come to anything, and no one claimed he included anything but, basically, and "I told you so" in the note. But Herodotus told us about it because it was so clever.

See, Damaratus took a typical message tablet--hinged wooden box that opens kinda like a book; inside are two wax surfaces, on which the message is pressed with a stylus. Close it up, and voila--your message is protected for the journey. But not exactly secure. Damaratus, though, did something never before recorded. He peeled off the wax and scratched his true message into the wood, then put the wax back on and pressed a benign one into the wax.

Of course, he peeps back in Sparta had no clue why exiled-dude was writing them with something so useless and thought long and hard on it until finally someone said, "Hey, let's look underneath the wax." Took them months to figure this out, apparently.

This was such a fun story, but there was absolutely no way I could work it into Jewel of Persia. So I stole it instead. ;-) I took the cleverness of the idea and made it the standard way two of my bad guys communicate when they're apart.

Gotta love poetic license.

Hope everyone has a happy Wednesday!

1 comment:

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