Throughout history man has sought ways to communicate secretly. One of the earliest
recorded methods for doing this was the use of wax tablets by the ancient Greeks.
In 480 BC, Demaratus used wax tablets in an attempt to warn King Leonidas of Sparta
that King Xerxes I planned to lead his army into Greece prior to the historic Battle
of Thermopylae. Because the danger of being discovered was great, Demaratus hid
his warning by scraping the wax off the tablets and scribing his message directly
onto the wood. Then he recoated the tablets with wax and sent the tablets via messenger
to Leonidas. Interestingly, when the tablets were delivered, no one could figure
out why they had received wax tablets wiht nothing written on them. According to
The Histories written by Herodotus, widely
acclaimed as the Father of History, Queen Gorgo, Leonidas' wife is purported to
have said, "If they would scrape the wax off the tablet, they would be sure to find
the writing upon the wood." Thus, the warning was delivered, but the Spartans got
mssacred at Theropylae in one of history's greatest last stands as depicted in the
movie 300 starring Gerard Butler.
Demaratus' use of wax tablets is one of the earliest and most widely referenced
uses of information hiding, a practice that has become known as steganography.
Next Topic: What is Steganography?