Concerning the secret conveyances of any written message in use amongst the Antients,
|Either by|| / Land.|
\ the open Ayre.
The secrecy of any written message may consist either in
1. In the Conveyance, when a letter is so closely concealed in the carryage of it, as to delude the search and suspition of the adversary. Of which kind, the antient Historians doe furnish us with divers relations, reducible in the generall unto these three heads. Those that are
1. By Land.
2. By Water.
3. Through the open Ayre.
1. The secret conveyances by Land, may be of numberlesse variety: but those antient inventions of this nature, which to my remembrance are most obvious and remarkeable, are these.
That of Harpagus the Mede (mentioned by Herodotus and Iustin) who whn he would exhort Cyrus to a conspiracy against the King his uncle, (and not daring to commit any such message to the ordinary way of conveyance, especially since the Kings jealousie had stopped up all passages with spies and watchmen) he put his letters into the belly of a hare, which together with certaine hunters net, hee delivered unto a trusty servant, who under this disguise of a hunts-man, got an unsuspected passage to Cyrus. And Astyages himselfe was by this conspiracy bereav'd of that Kingdom which was then the greatest Monarchie in the world.
To this purpose likewise is that of Demaratus, King of Sparta, who being banished from this own Country and received in the Persian Court, when he there understood of Xerxes his designe and preparation for a warre with Greece, hee used these meanes for the discovery of it unto his countrey men. Having writ an Epistle in a Tablet of wood, he convered over the letters with waxe, and then committed it unto a trusty servant to be delivered unto the Magistrates of Lacedaemon; Who when they had received it, were for a long time in a perplexed consultation, what it should meane, they did see nothing written, and yet could not conceive, but that it should import some weighty secret; till at length the Kings sister did accidentally discover the writing under the waxe, By which meanes, the Grecians were so well provided, for the following warre, as to give a defeate to the greatest and most numerous Army that is mentioned in History.
The Fathers of the Counsell of Ephesus, when Nestorius was condemned, being strictly debarred from all ordinary wayes of conveyances, were faine to send unto Constantinople, by one in the disguise of a beggar.
Some messengers have beene sent away in coffins as being dead. Some others in the disguise of brute creatures, as those whom Iosephus mentions in the siege of Iotapata, who crept out of the City by night like Dogs.
Others have conveyed letters to their imprisoned friends, by putting them into the food they were to receive, which is related of Polycrita. Laurentius Medices involving his Epistles in a piece of bread, did send them by a certaine Nobleman in the forme of a begger. There is another relation of one, who rolled up his letters in a waxe candle, bidding the messemger tell the party that was to receive it, that the candle would give him light for his businesse. There is yet a stranger conveyance spoken of in Aeneas, by writing on leaves, and afterwards with these leaves, covering over some sore or putrid ulcer, where the enemy would never suspect any secret message.
Others have carried Epistles inscribed upon their owne flesh, which is reckoned amongst those secret conveyances mentioned by Ovid.
Caveat hoc custos, pro charta, conscia tergum
Praebeat, inque suo corpore verba ferat.
But amongst all the ancient practices in this kind, there is none for the strangenesse, to be compared unto that of Hystiaeus mentioned by Herodotus, and out of him in Aulus Gellius; who whilst he resided with Darius in Persia, being desirous to send unto Aristagoras in Greece, about revolting from the Persian Government, (concerning which they had before conferred together;) But not knowing well how at that distance to convey so dangerous a businesse with sufficient secrecy, hee at length contrived it after this manner. He chose one of his houshold servants that was troubled with fore eyes, pretending that for his recovery, his haire must be shaved, and his head scarified; in the performance of which Hystiaeus tooke occasion to imprint his secret intentions on his servants head, and keeping him close at home till his haire was growne, hee then told him, that for his perfect recovery, hee must travaile into Greece unto Aristagoras, who by shaving his haire the second time, would certainly restore him. By which relation you may see, what strange shifts the antients were put unto, for want of skill, in this subject, that is here discoursed of.
'Tis reported of some fugitive Jewes at the siege of Jerusalem, who more securely to carry away their gold, did first melt it into bullets, and then swallow it downe, venting it afterwards amongst their other excrements. Now if a man had but his faculty, who could write Homers Iliads, in so small a volume as might be contained in a nut shell, it were an easie matter for him, by this tricke of the Jews, securely to convey a whole packet of letters.
2. When all the land passages have beene stopped up, then have the antients used other secret conveiances by water; writing their intentions on thin plates of leade, and fastning them to the armes of thighes of some expert swimmer. Frontinus relates, that when Lucullus would informe a besieged City of his comming to succour them, hee put his letters into two bladders, betwixt which a common Souldier in the disguise of a sea-monster, was appointed to swim unto the City. There have bin likewise more exquisite inventions to passe under the water, either by a mans selfe, or in a boate, wherein he might also carry provision; only having a long truncke or pipe, with a tunnell at the top of it, to let downe fresh ayre. But for the prevention of all such conveyances, the antients were wont in their strictest sieges, to crosse the rivers with strong nets, to fasten stakes in severall parts of the channel with sharpe irons, as the blades of swords, sticking upon them.
3. Hence was it that there have beene other meanes attempted through the open ayre. Either by using birds, as Pidgeons and Swallowes insted of messengers, of which I shall treate more particularly in the sixteenth Chapter. Or else by fastning a writing to an arrow, or the weight that is cast from a sling.
Somewhat of this nature, was that intimation agreed upon betwixt David and Ionathan, though that invention doe somewhat favour of the antient simplicity and rudenesse. It was a more exact invention mentioned by Herodotus concerning Artabazus and Timoxenus, who when they could not come together, were wont to informe one another or any thing that concerned their affaires, by fastning a letter unto an arrow, and directing it unto some appointed place, where it might bee received.
Thus also Cleonymus King of Lacedaemon, in the siege of the City Trezene, injoyned the Souldiers to shoot severall arrowes into the Towne, with notes fastned unto them having this inscription, [греческая фраза, введу её здесь позже] I come that I may restore this place to its liberty. Vpon which, the credulous and discontented Inhabitants were very willing to let him enter.
When Cicero was so straightly besieged by the Galls, that the Souldiers were almost ready to yeeld; Cesar being desirous to encourage him with the newes of some other forces that were to come unto his ayde, did shoote an arrow into the City, with these words fastned unto it; Caesar Ciceroni fiduciam optat, expecta auxilium. By which meanes the Souldiers were perswaded to hold out so long, till these new succours did arrive and breake up the siege.
The same thing might also be done more securely, by rolling up a note within the head of an arrow, and then shooting of it to a confederates Tent, or to any other appointed place.
To this purpose is that which Lypsius relates out of Appian, concerning an antient custome for the besieged to write their minds briefely in a little piece of leade, which they could with a sling cast a great distance, and exactly hit any such particular place as should be agreed upon; where the confederate might receive it, and by the same meanes returne an answere.
Of this nature likewise are those kind of bullets, lately invented in these Germane warres, in which they can shoot not onely letters, corne, and the like: but (which is the strangest) powder also into a besieged City.
But amongst all other possible conveyances through the ayre, imagination it selfe cannot conceive any one more usefull, then the invention of a flying charriot, which I have mentioned elsewhere. Since by this meanes, a man may have as free a passage as a bird, which is not hindred, either by the highest walls, or the deepest rivers and trenches, or the most watchfull Sentinels. But of this perhaps I may have occasion to treate more largely in some other discourse.