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I took the name of a powerful woman.

I applied her lover, who was famous for gambling at a river.

The key for my next substitution was an emperor who failed in the east and returned from the south.

The result began with the home town of a saint who brings gifts, which I removed.

What remained was: PJBLJ

Who was the powerful woman?

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  • $\begingroup$ the saint who brings gifts is 'nick' for anyone who doesn't know $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Aug 24 '16 at 20:34
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The powerful woman was

CLEOPATRA

Her lover was:

JULIUS CAESAR

and the river was:

RUBICON

To "apply her lover" means:

to apply the Caesar cipher.

The emperor who failed in the east and returned from the south might be:

NAPOLEON BONAPARTE

The saint who brings gifts is:

SAINT NICHOLAS

His home town was:

MYRA


So here's how it works out. We start with

CLEOPATRA

and apply

a Caesar cipher with shift 13 units ("ROT13"), getting PYRBCNGEN.

Then we use

NAPOLEON as keyword for a standard substitution cipher; that is, A..Z map to NAPOLEBCDFG...Z. This yields MYRAPJBLJ.

And then we remove

MYRA from the start, getting PJBLJ as required.

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  • $\begingroup$ You used the wrong key. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Aug 24 '16 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ Not Vigenere -- the repeated letters will get messed up (unless the key is short enough, which it won't be) $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Aug 24 '16 at 22:54
  • $\begingroup$ Her lover was not Julius Caesar, BTW, but Mark Antony... $\endgroup$ – Hosch250 Aug 25 '16 at 1:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Bolo, you want rot13 for your Caesar cipher, after which everything will fall into place. (I am advising you rather than adjusting my answer because you got the intended lover and the right emperor and I didn't, and it would be a gross miscarriage of justice for me to get the checkmark here.) $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Aug 25 '16 at 1:28
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    $\begingroup$ OK, I edited yours. (I'd have had no objection to your getting the +15, but no matter.) $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Aug 25 '16 at 9:42
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I'm pretty sure I know what the answer is but I'm missing at least one key thing.

So, before the final removal we must have had

MYRAPJBLJ,

so our powerful woman's name

is 9 letters long and (if everything before is simple substitutions) has repeated letters where those Js are.

In that case she must surely be

CLEOPATRA

and her lover is

Mark Antony, who spent his youth gambling in Rome.

However, if I now do the "obvious" thing and

hit CLEOPATRA with a substitution cipher whose key is derived from either ANTONY or MARK ANTONY in the traditional way -- i.e., ABC...Z maps to ANTOYBCD...Z or MARKNTOYBCD...Z --

then I find that

the thing mapping to MYRAPJBLJ has to be either THYKLARPA or RENHIMQLM; and writing out what the mapping of letters would have to be in either case gives incredibly implausible results.

Regrettably I don't have the (military?) exploits of all the Roman emperors at my fingertips, and so far my very limited research hasn't identified that second cipher key.

I'm posting this in such an incomplete state because I have to go and do something else for half an hour or so. If no one else has scooped me when I return I'll think about it some more :-).

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  • $\begingroup$ Close, but I meant another lover. Also, the second emperor is unrelated. But the answer to the final question is correct. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Aug 24 '16 at 21:04
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    $\begingroup$ Ah, of course. Silly me. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Aug 24 '16 at 21:19

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