Roman Pastimes

Roman Games

Roman games were not so different from many that we have inherited. Indeed, most of the games that we still enjoy playing today come from Ancient Roman times. Games with dice were extremely popular in all the regions of the Roman Empire. According to Herodotus, the most famous ancient Greek historian, the Lydians, an Anatolian people living in Lydia, a region in Western Anatolia, claimed to have invented dice games. This has been however proven-otherwise by experts and archaeologists: the use of dice dates back to the Egyptian world, around 3000 BC, almost 2,000 years before the Iron Age Lydians.

Roman Doll Carved in Bone with Pigment
Roman Pair of Bone Dice

Tali and Tesserae

The ancient Romans had two games played with dice: Tali and Tesserae.  Bad scores were called canes, or dogs, and the high scores were called Venus after their goddess of love. They threw from a cup called a fritillium and usually played on a board made of wood, bronze or marble. Wealthy players had marble boards encrusted with jewels and had their names inscribed on the back of the boards.

Dice and Gambling

Dice, of course, led to gambling. The ruin of so many Romans through gambling losses caused the authorities to enact numerous laws (e.g. Lex Titia) forbidding the game of dice. But the laws were ignored and “shooting craps” continues to be one of the most popular games 2000 years later, as Las Vegas enthusiasts demonstrate. Praising the god of Luck is not just an ancient pastime!

By ancient art manager,

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