Did the Romans ever develop any form of cryptography, where either words were replaced with other words or letters were replaced with other letters? Do we have any remaining examples, and if so have we translated them?

  • 1
    I don't quite know if this should be here, at history se or at hsm se
    – tox123
    Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 19:52
  • 3
    I'd say this is on-topic here, and it's probably on-topic at HSE as well. Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 20:59

1 Answer 1


Yes. We know that Caesar was famous for using a cipher, which is still named for him:

Some letters of his to the senate are also preserved, and he seems to have been the first to reduce such documents to pages and the form of a note-book, whereas previously consuls and generals sent their reports written right across the sheet. There are also letters of his to Cicero, as well as to his intimates on private affairs, and in the latter, if he had anything confidential to say, he wrote it in cipher, that is, by so changing the order of the letters of the alphabet, that not a word could be made out. If anyone wishes to decipher these, and get at their meaning, he must substitute the fourth letter of the alphabet, namely D, for A, and so with the others.

Suet. Div. Jul. 56.6

  • Honestly when I read this answer I felt so stupid.
    – tox123
    Commented May 5, 2018 at 2:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.