top of page

Palamedes Historical Reference

Palamedes is the name I program under and is a name used throughout history.  It's a name that I have used as a "handle" since the early '80s and will continue to do so going forward.  It's a name I came up with during a brief mythology kick when I was young.

Who was Palamedes? 

Short TL;DR version:

Palamedes, son of Nauplius, is the inventor of the dice and of several letters of the alphabet. Palamedes outwitted Odysseus, making him join the expedition against Troy. For that reason Odysseus was hostile to Palamedes; and during the war Odysseus, having taken a Trojan prisoner, compelled him to write a letter of treasonable purport ostensibly sent by Priam to Palamedes; and having buried gold in the quarters of Palamedes, dropped the letter in the camp. Agamemnon read the letter, found the gold, and delivered up Palamedes to the allies to be stoned as a traitor.


The long in-depth version:

Palamedes, inventor of the dice and of several letters of the alphabet, outwitted Odysseus, making him join the expedition against Troy. But Odysseus became hostile to him and Palamedes’ cleverness proved fatal to himself. Palamedes and knowledge Contributions to knowledge. The contributions of Palamedes to knowledge were of such a nature that they have been named together with those made by the Egyptians and the Phoenicians. For the Egyptians, they say, were the first to represent thought by symbols and pictures of animals. These symbols are among the most ancient and, having being impressed upon stone, they are still visible today. And some have believed that the Phoenicians took the idea of the alphabet from the Egyptians and then imported it into Greece, being as they were predominant at sea. For it was Cadmus, they say, who taught the art of writing to the uncivilised Greeks, after having arrived with a Phoenician fleet. Many letters invented by Palamedes. King Cecrops of Athens has been also counted among those who promoted civilization. But during the time of the Trojan War, Palamedes of Argos was one of the most brilliant, having invented eleven letters of the alphabet or, as others say, sixteen.


What this knowledge lacks; Now, it has been remarked, that this kind of knowledge, which is good in the sense that it provides various skills, is not enough in order to learn what may be of real advantage for each person and for the community. For lawful, just, and harmonious life in social and political relations has never been learned, and instead wronging and plotting against one another has often prevailed with terrible results even for men of knowledge. Knowledge did not save Palamedes. And in the same way as power and wealth did not save Agamemnon from being murdered or Oedipus from falling into utter ruin, knowledge and the invention of the letters could not save Palamedes from being stoned by the same men who he had instructed. For the Achaeans, they say, did not even know how to count the host, and when they had learned this from Palamedes and had themselves become clever and proficient, then they slew him.


Story of Palamedes The Oath of Tyndareus; Because of the Oath of Tyndareus it was the duty of many rulers in Greece to join the coalition that was being formed for the purpose of sailing to Troy and obtain, either by words or by force, the restoration of Helen and the Spartan property that had been stolen by the seducer Paris.

Odysseus’ reasons to avoid the war; When the envoys Palamedes, Menelaus and Nestor, arrived to Ithaca in order to remind Odysseus of the oath he had sworn and consequently join the expedition, they met difficulties, for Odysseus had been warned by an oracle that if he went to Troy he would return home alone and in need, with his comrades lost, after twenty years. Palamedes is not tricked by Odysseus. And that is why Odysseus, not wishing to go to war, feigned madness. But Palamedes, seeing through the deception, snatched little Telemachus, Odysseus’ son, from Penelope’s bosom and drew his sword pretending that he would kill him. So Odysseus, fearing for his son’s life, confessed that his madness was fictitious and accepted to go to war. But others say that when Odysseus learned that spokesmen would come to him, he put on a cap and, pretending madness, yoked a horse and an ox to the plow. Palamedes, they say, noticing that Odysseus was performing a farce, took his son Telemachus from the cradle and put him in front of the plow exhorting Odysseus to give up his pretence. Then Odysseus promised to join the allies, but from that time he was hostile to Palamedes, though The Oath of Tyndareus that bound him had been his Odysseus’ invention as well.

Odysseus plots against Palamedes; So having come to the front at Troy, Odysseus, never forgetting that he had been outwitted by Palamedes, kept plotting night and day against him. Some say that Odysseus compelled a Trojan prisoner to write a letter of treasonable purport, which seemed to be sent by King Priam of Troy to Palamedes, and that he dropped the letter in the camp to be found and at the same time buried gold in the quarters of Palamedes. Others have said that Odysseus, referring to a warning in a dream, convinced Agamemnon to move the Achaean camp for one day, and hid by night a great quantity of gold in the place where Palamedes’ tent had been. Odysseus also gave to a Trojan prisoner a letter to be carried to King Priam, and sent a soldier of his ahead to kill him not far away from the camp. So when the army returned the next day to the camp a soldier found the letter on the body of the dead Trojan prisoner. And on it it was written: “Sent to Palamedes from Priam” promising him as much gold as Odysseus had hidden if he would betray the camp according to agreement.

Palamedes found guilty of treason; This is how Palamedes lost his life through an unjust judgement. For the next day, when Palamedes was brought before Agamemnon, he denied having betrayed the army, but he was not able to convince either the king or anyone else of his innocence, after soldiers went to his tent and dug up the gold that sly Odysseus had hidden.

Palamedes’ death; And so Palamedes was stoned to death by the entire army. But others say that there was not such a plot and that Palamedes was drowned by Odysseus and Diomedes, when he put out to catch fish.

Ajax recalls the incident in Ithaca; After Achilles’ death, when Ajax and Odysseus competed for his arms, the former recalled the circumstances that forced Odysseus to come to Troy to show the judges that he was a better man and deserved the arms of Achilles: “Shall Odysseus appear the better man who came last to arms and by feigned madness shirked the war, till one more shrewd than he…the son of Nauplius, uncovered this timid fellow’s trick and dragged him forth to the arms that he shunned? Shall he take the best because he wanted to take none ? And shall I go unhonoured…just because I was the first to front the danger ?” [Ajax. Ovid, Metamorphoses 13.34]

Palamedes’ father claims satisfaction; When Palamedes’ father, Nauplius, learned that calumny and a miscarriage of justice had killed his son, he sailed to the Troad and, meeting the leaders of the Achaean army, claimed satisfaction. But all of them favoured Agamemnon, who protected Odysseus, and so Nauplius returned unsuccessful.

Contribution of Palamedes’ brother; Agamemnon did not perish at cape Caphareus, for the wind bore him to his own shores. But Oeax, in order to avenge the wrong done to his brother Palamedes, let Agamemnon’s wife Clytaemnestra know that Cassandra, daughter of King Priam of Troy, was being brought as a concubine to her house. And on his arrival Agamemnon was murdered by his wife and her lover Aegisthus.

bottom of page