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In Greek mythology, Palamedes ( (Παλαμήδης) was the son of Nauplius and Clymene.

He is said to have invented counting, currency, weights, measures, jokes, dice and a forerunner of chess called pessoi, as well military ranks. Sometimes he is credited with discoveries in the field of wine-making and the supplementary letters of the Greek alphabet.

Agamemnon sent Palamedes to Ithaca to retrieve Odysseus, who had promised to defend the marriage of Helen and Menelaus. Paris had kidnapped Helen, but Odysseus did not want to honor his oath. He pretended to be insane and plowed his fields with salt. Palamedes guessed what was happening and put Odysseus' son, Telemachus, in front of the plow. Odysseus stopped working and revealed his sanity. Odysseus never forgave Palamedes for sending him to the Trojan War. When Palamedes advised the Greeks to return home, Odysseus accused him of being a traitor and forged false evidence and found a fake witness to testify against him. Palamedes was stoned to death.

Behind figures of heroic legend often stand real men.... As for Palamedes, the Greeks especially knew one thing about him: he was so clever that he devised a way to write down Greek speech..... B. Powell, Homer and the Origin of the Greek Alphabet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991)

Then Palamedes, whenever he appears in tragedy, proves Agamemnon ridiculously unfit to be a general. Did you never remark how he declares that he had invented number, and had numbered the ships and set in array the ranks of the army at Troy; which implies that they had never been numbered before, and Agamemnon must be supposed literally to have been incapable of counting his own feet--how could he if he was ignorant of number? And if that is true, what sort of general must he have been? PlatoRepublic


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