He joined the rest of the Greeks in the expedition against Troy. He is also credited with several inventions: Pausanias in his Description of Greece (2.20.3) says that in Corinth there is a Temple of Fortune to which Palamedes dedicated the dice that he had invented; Plato in The Republic (Book 7) remarks (through the character of Socrates) that Palamedes claimed to have invented numbers; and others note him in connection with the alphabet.
After Paris took Helen to Troy, Agamemnon sent Palamedes to Ithaca to retrieve Odysseus, who had promised to defend the marriage of Helen and Menelaus. Odysseus did not want to honor his oath, so he plowed his fields with a donkey and an ox both hitched to the same plow, so the beasts of different sizes caused the plow to pull chaotically. Palamedes guessed what was happening and put Odysseus' son, Telemachus, in front of the plow. Odysseus stopped working and revealed his sanity.
The ancient sources show differences in regards to the details of how Palamedes met his death. Odysseus never forgave Palamedes for ruining his attempt to stay out of the Trojan War. When Palamedes advised the Greeks to return home, Odysseus hid gold in his tent and wrote a fake letter purportedly from Priam. The letter was found and the Greeks accused him of being a traitor. Palamedes was stoned to death by the Greek army. According to other accounts, Odysseus and Diomedes warriors drowned him during a fishing expedition. Still another version relates that he was lured into a well in search of treasure, and then was crushed by stones.
Ovid discusses Palamedes' role in the Trojan War in the Metamorphoses. Palamedes' fate is described in Virgil's Aeneid. In the Apology, Plato describes Socrates as looking forward to speaking with Palamedes after death, and intimates in the Phaedrus that Palamedes authored a work on rhetoric. Euripides and many other dramatists have written dramas about his fate. The orator Gorgias also wrote a Defense of Palamedes, describing the defense speech that Palamedes gave when charged with treason.
The major Dutch playwright Joost van den Vondel wrote in 1625 the play Palamedes, based on the Greek myth. The play had a clear topical political connotation: the unjust killing of Palamedes stands for the execution of the statesman Johan van Oldenbarnevelt six years earlier—which Vondel, like others in the Dutch Republic, considered a judicial murder. In Vondel's version, responsibility for Palamedes' killing is attributed mainly to Agamemnon; the play's harsh and tyrannical Agamemnon was clearly intended to portray Prince Maurits of Nassau. Authorities in Amsterdam found no difficulty in deciphering the political meanings behind Vondel's Classical allusions and imposed a heavy fine on the playwright.
In one modern account, The Luck of Troy by Roger Lancelyn Green, Palamedes was double-dealing with the Trojans.
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