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σκυτάλη 1

I.a staff, cudgel, club, Anth. Sparta, a staff or baton, used as a cypher for writing dispatches:—a strip of leather was rolled slantwise round it, on which the dispatches were written lengthwise, so that when unrolled they were unintelligible: commanders abroad had a staff of like thickness, round which they rolled these papers, and so were able to read the dispatches:—hence σκυτάλη came to mean a Spartan dispatch, Thuc., Xen.; and generally a message, Pind.
deriv. uncertain

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