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Headword: *palamh/dhs
Adler number: pi,44
Translated headword: Palamedes
Vetting Status: high
son of Nauplios and Klymene; Argive, epic poet.[1] He was a cousin of King Agamemnon on the mother's side.[2] He was gifted in philosophy and poetry[3] and was the inventor of the letters zeta, pi, phi and chi[4] and also of counting,[5] draughts,[6] dice, measures and weights.[7] His poems were suppressed by the descendants of Agamemnon[8] through jealousy. I suppose that the poet Homer felt the same way and [sc. for that reason] made no mention of this man.
[Note] that Palamedes' poems were suppressed through jealousy by Homer.[9] Envy touches even the greatest men. Would that it had never wormed its way into life: having done so, may it not outlive me! A plague on it, and may it be far away! 'How many times I have bitten my heart,'[10] and what things I have seen in a long life! 'But may I have a life of sufficiency, and may jealousy never cast its eye on my hopes' - as one of the ancients says.[11]
Greek Original:
*palamh/dhs, *naupli/ou kai\ *klume/nhs, *)argei=os, e)popoio/s. h)=n de\ ou(=tos a)neyio\s tou= basile/ws *)agame/mnonos pro\s mhtro/s. e)/sxe de\ eu)fuw=s pro/s te filosofi/an kai\ poihtikh\n kai\ eu(reth\s ge/gone tou= z stoixei/ou kai\ tou= p kai\ tou= f kai\ tou= x, yh/fwn te kai\ pessw=n kai\ ku/bwn kai\ me/trwn kai\ staqmw=n. ta\ de\ poih/mata au)tou= h)fani/sqh u(po\ tw=n *)agame/mnonos a)pogo/nwn dia\ baskani/an. u(polamba/nw de\ kai\ to\n poihth\n *(/omhron au)to\ tou=to peponqe/nai kai\ mhdemi/an tou= a)ndro\s tou/tou mnh/mhn poih/sasqai. o(/ti h)fani/sqh ta\ *palamh/dous poih/mata dia\ baskani/an u(po\ *(omh/rou. a(/ptetai de\ kai\ tw=n megi/stwn a)ndrw=n o( fqo/nos: w(s ei)/qe mh\ pareise/du tw=| bi/w|, h)\ pareisdu\s mh/ mou perie/soito: e)rre/sqw de\ kai\ a)pe/stw. o(/sa ga\r de/dhgmai th\n kardi/an, kai\ oi(=a de/dorka tw=| makrw=| xro/nw|. a)ll' ei)/h moi bi/os panepa/rkios. o)/mma ba/loi de\ mh/pot' e)f' h(mete/rais e)lpi/si baskani/h: fhsi/ tis tw=n palaiw=n.
Palamedes (OCD4 s.v.), though never mentioned by Homer, was an important figure in later versions of the Trojan War saga. His intellectual gifts and achievements were regularly said to have aroused the jealousy of other Greek leaders, especially Odysseus, and they treacherously contrived his death. This tale appears first in the Kypria, and was dramatized by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. Palamedes' father Nauplios avenged his death by persuading many of the Greek leaders' wives to form adulterous relationships in their husbands' absence and/or by luring much of the fleet on to the rocks of Euboia on its return voyage by means of deceptive fire-signals.
Thinking of Palamedes, the victim of jealousy, the writer has been unable to restrain himself from commenting on how his own life has apparently been ruined by the jealous hostility of one or more of "the greatest men". In two other entries (eta 392, pi 1959), prompted by mentions of the name Polyeuktos, he has inserted vituperative remarks about the Polyeuktos who was patriarch of Constantinople from 956 to 970; was this the "great man" whose jealousy had condemned him to a life of obscurity and anonymous lexicography?
[1] The compiler, it seems, routinely attaches this classificatory label to Palamedes, even though he is a character from heroic saga, because poems by him are mentioned later in the entry.
[2] Klymene was the daughter of Katreus and the sister of Aerope, mother of Agamemnon and Menelaos; see e.g. [Apollodoros] 3.2.2.
[3] "Philosophy" should perhaps be understood here in a broad sense ("intellectual pursuits"), though it is striking that both in Plato's Apology (41B) and in Xenophon's (26) Socrates after his condemnation compares himself to Palamedes (cf. also Philostratos, Life of Apollonios 6.21). I cannot find any reference earlier than the Suda to poems by Palamedes.
[4] Palamedes is often said to have been the inventor of writing (first in Stesichorus PMG 213). But this invention was also ascribed to earlier heroes such as Kadmos (e.g. Aristotle fr.501 Rose), and subsequently these claims were reconciled by a theory that Kadmos had brought sixteen letters from Phoenicia, with the four mentioned here being added by Palamedes and four more (eta, xi, psi and omega) by Simonides (sic) (Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7.192).
[5] lit. "pebbles", i.e. reckoning or accounting with the aid of counters on an abacus or similar device.
[6] This is the conventional rendering of pessoi/ (pi 1384), though the game, or rather games, concerned (all played with dice) more nearly resembled backgammon.
[7] This list of Palamedes' inventions is most closely paralleled in Alcidamas, Odysseus 22, which also includes military tactics, music, coinage and fire-signals; other sources (notably Sophocles fr. 432 and Gorgias, Defence of Palamedes 30) add army organization, fortification, written laws, astronomy, time-reckoning, and even the practice of taking three meals a day (Aeschylus fr. 182). Many of the same inventions are attributed to Prometheus in (?)Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 442-506, especially 454-461.
[8] It is not clear who these might be, since the descent line of Agamemnon came to an end with Teisamenos, son of Orestes, who was killed by the descendants of Herakles when they returned to the Peloponnese ([Apollodoros] 2.8.3).
[9] This sentence (tentatively attributed by Adler to Aelian) repeats the content of the two preceding sentences in a compressed and inaccurate form, and may be a reader's annotation incorporated in the text.
[10] Aristophanes, Acharnians 1.
[11] The author of this elegiac epigram is unknown; Lloyd-Jones and Parsons have included it in Supplementum Hellenisticum (1181). See also Greek Anthology 5.22.5-6 for o)/mma onwards.
Gantz, Timothy R. Early Greek Myth. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993. 603-8.
Radt, Stefan L. Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta. Vol. 4: Sophocles. 2nd ed. Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999. 357-9, 386.
Scodel, Ruth S. The Trojan Trilogy of Euripides. Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1980. 43-61.
Sommerstein, Alan H. "The prologue of Aeschylus' Palamedes." Rheinisches Museum 143 (2000) 118-127.
Wilson, Nigel G. Scholars of Byzantium. London: Duckworth, 1983. 145-7.
Woodford, Susan. "Palamedes seeks revenge." Journal of Hellenic Studies 114 (1994) 164-169.
Keywords: comedy; definition; epic; military affairs; mythology; philosophy; poetry; science and technology; tragedy; women
Translated by: Alan Sommerstein on 20 November 2003@10:26:39.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (supplemented first sentence of translation; addition to notes 9 and 11; additional keyword; restorative and other cosmetics) on 21 November 2003@03:25:55.
David Whitehead (updated a ref) on 10 August 2014@03:47:25.
David Whitehead on 4 October 2015@10:53:27.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 12 April 2021@21:21:32.


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