An Improved Method
Now this method, though introducing a certain improvement in the system of fire signalling, is
The drawbacks to this method.
still wanting in definiteness: for it is evident
that it is neither possible to anticipate, or, if you
could anticipate, to write upon the rod every possible thing
that may happen: and therefore, when anything unexpected in
the chapter of accidents does occur, it is plainly impossible
to communicate it by this method. Besides, even such statements as are written on the rods are quite indefinite; for the
number of cavalry or infantry that have come, or the particular
point in the territory which they have entered, the number of
ships, or the amount of corn, cannot be expressed. For
what cannot be known before it happens cannot have an
arrangement made for expressing it. And this is the important point. For how is one to take proper measures for relief
without knowing the number or direction of the enemy?
Or how can the party to be relieved feel confidence or the
reverse, or indeed have any conception at all of the situation, if it does not know how many ships or how much corn
have been despatched by the allies?
But the last method which was hit upon by Cleoxenus and
The improved method of Cleoxenus and Democlitus.
Democlitus, and further elaborated by myself, is
above all things definite, and made capable of
indicating clearly whatever is needed at the
moment; but in its working it requires attention
and more than ordinarily close observation. It is as follows:
Divide the alphabet into five groups of five letters each (of
course the last group will be one letter short, but this will not
interfere with the working of the system). The parties about
to signal to each other must then prepare five tablets each, on
which the several groups of letters must be written. They
must then agree that the party signalling shall first raise two
torches, and wait until the other raises two also. The object
of this is to let each other know that they are attending.
These torches having been lowered, the signalling party raises
first torches on the left to indicate which of the tablets he
means: for instance, one if he means the first, two if he means
the second, and so on. He next raises torches on the right
showing in a similar manner by their number which of the
letters in the tablet he wishes to indicate to the recipient.