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Decoding Device, 5th Century BC

Dry Dock

Dry dock at 205 BC (Athenaios Deipnosophistes.)

Dice and Pessoi


Dice (kyboi) and astragaloi

Sophocles claimed dice were invented by Palamedes during the siege of Troy c. 1200 BC? Palamedes of Argos some say invented eleven letters of the alphabet or, as others say even sixteen. Palamedes is assumed to have discovered counting and coinage, weights and measures (attributed also to Hermes), military ranks , the lighthouse and the game of pessoi (a forerunner of chess). Palamedes was killed directly or indirect by Odysseus, the son of Laertes and Anticlea. Herodotus attributed the discover of the dice to the Lydians in the reign of Atys. Probably dice were known and invented independently in various places back up to 6000 BC. Romans believed that Fortuna the daughter of Zeus decided about the outcome of a throw. Egyptians believed that their god Theuth invented dice and also numbers, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, etc.

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.... In Palamedes we may have found the adapter's very name.... We cannot separated the recording of early hexametric poetry from Homer... Homer sang his song and the adapter took him down. From this momentous event came classical Greek civilization and its achievements. B. 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

Differential Gear

In 80 BC considered to be used in the Antikythera device. See also



Reconstruction of Heron's dioptra from Schöne, Hero Alexandrinus. Heronis Alexandrini opera quae supersunt omnia. Vol. III: Rationes dimetiendi et commentation dioptrica. Griechisch und Deutsch H. Schöne. - Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1903.

Dioptra a surveying device invented by Heron of Alexandria for triangulation long before English mathematician Leonard Digges' 16th-century telescopic theodolite, which was used in navigation, surveying and civil engineering to determine the direction of roads, tunnels or other structures.