Issues

Journal & Issues

Volume 16 (2022): Issue 1 (April 2022)

Volume 15 (2021): Issue 1 (April 2021)

Volume 14 (2020): Issue 1 (October 2020)

Volume 13 (2019): Issue 1 (October 2019)

Volume 12 (2018): Issue 1 (October 2018)

Volume 11 (2017): Issue 1 (October 2017)

Volume 10 (2016): Issue 1 (September 2016)

Journal Details
Format
Journal
eISSN
2183-3311
First Published
15 Dec 2016
Publication timeframe
1 time per year
Languages
English

Search

Volume 16 (2022): Issue 1 (April 2022)

Journal Details
Format
Journal
eISSN
2183-3311
First Published
15 Dec 2016
Publication timeframe
1 time per year
Languages
English

Search

16 Articles
Open Access

Back to the Game: Reframing Play and Games in Context An Introduction

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 1 - 7

Abstract

Open Access

Amulets, Gaming Pieces, Toys or Offerings? Thoughts on Animal Figurines and Funerary Practices in the Late Bronze Age Aegean

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 9 - 50

Abstract

Abstract

The assemblage of four cones (ivory, stone) and an astragalus marked with dots from Katsambas in Crete is so far the best evidence of gaming pieces uncovered in an Aegean tomb of the Late Bronze Age. A small faience animal associated with the same burial, that of a child, attracted however little attention, and raises the question whether it may be added as a possible game piece to this set. Although this holed piece was certainly used as a personal ornament or amulet, this paper gives the opportunity to review the functions of small faience, stone and ivory animal figurines in the Aegean, especially the couchant ones. It also introduces the notion of chance and fate linked to playing on the basis of cross-cultural comparisons in the Eastern Mediterranean. Additionally, the hypothesis that small standing terracotta quadrupeds may have initially served as toys before having functioned as votive or funerary offerings in Aegean cult places and tombs is further explored. Special interest is shown on Mycenaean funerary assemblages from Prosymna in the Argolid and Perati in Attica featuring small terracotta animals and cone shells, inasmuch as these objects may be seen as potential toys and gaming pieces.

Keywords

  • Grave goods
  • jewellery
  • Minoan Crete
  • Mycenaean Greece
  • Late Cypriot
Open Access

Why so Serious? An Extraordinary Cone Shell Group from Mycenae and the Problem of Identifying Mycenaean Board Gaming Material

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 51 - 93

Abstract

Abstract

In 1974 in Room Θ3 of House Θ in the Southwest Quarter of the Mycenae citadel, an extraordinary find came to light: 545 conus mediterraneus ventricosus shells were found together with 12 small objects in a crevice of the bedrock. 353 cones were intentionally pierced and ground, and 9 of them were filled with lead. This assemblage includes the largest collection of cone shells known from the Late Bronze Age Aegean, and it is now possible to attempt an interpretation of its use, after the publication of the Southwest Quarter excavation. The find is examined in detail, in comparison to other large cone shell groups from Mycenaean contexts. The facts suggest that the Θ3 assemblage artefacts could have been markers for a kind of game, for which games of strategy, skill and chance known in the Eastern Mediterranean, are suggested as possible candidates. Under this hypothesis, context finds from the Room Θ3 deposit are also examined. This study highlights the difficulty in identifying the material remains of board games, as well as the need to include the game – being a basic human activity- in the potential interpretations of archaeological records from the Mycenaean period.

Keywords

  • Cone shells
  • board games
  • gaming pieces
  • Mycenaean
  • Late Bronze Age
Open Access

Games and Oracular Practices Around the Hearth: The “Table of Offerings” from the so-called Temple 4 at Kition-Kathari (Cyprus)

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 95 - 128

Abstract

Abstract

In the sanctuary of Kition-Kathari (Cyprus), a building with benches, identified as a temple (“Temple 4”), is characterized in its centre by a hearth pit next to a trapezoidal stone construction, constituting “Altar E”. The platform’s surface comprises a series of little cup-holes. Once labelled “table of offerings”, it has recently been interpreted as a gaming table. Besides clay gaming stones, this area has yielded knucklebones as well as several deposits of incised scapulae linked with divination practices. This Cypriot context gives us the opportunity to explore and also to put in light the influences and interactions between different regions of the Eastern Mediterranean at the turn of the 1st millennium BC.

Keywords

  • Gaming table
  • gaming stones
  • hearth
  • altar
  • merchant-mariners’ context
Open Access

Board Games Equipment from Archaeological Contexts in Archaic Attica

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 129 - 157

Abstract

Abstract

This paper addresses the question of the presence of gaming equipment (painted gaming tables and dice) in Attic tombs of the 7th and 6th century BC. It is argued that this type of funerary goods, whether functional at once, or not, have acquired a specific social and ideological meaning related to the notion of leisure, specifically destined to the upper classes. They first appear in the early 7th century, when such equipment must have been a rarity in mainland Greece, and their use was revived during the first third of the 6th century BC, a period of polarization between the aristocracy and the rest of the Athenian population.

Keywords

  • Board games
  • gaming tables
  • die
  • funerals
  • Attica
Open Access

A Boeotian Die in Context: Gaming Pieces, Jewellery, Seals, Spindle Whorls and Bird Bowls in a Female Burial of Status

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 159 - 195

Abstract

Abstract

The present paper presents a die in its archaeological context, which is a rich grave in the region of Boeotia. It attempts to understand with what other items this gaming piece coexisted and why, as well as who was the person who played with it during lifetime. The Boeotian die is a solid cube made of clay that presents a peculiarity in its numbering system, for the face normally bearing six dots features twenty-five instead. The date of the die in the Archaic period and the sex of the deceased can be established from its associated grave-group which comprises 48 Boeotian (mostly bird bowls) and Late Corinthian vases, minor objects, such as spindle whorls, and gaming pieces from raw natural materials (such as pebbles, shells, a terracotta animal in secondary use, etc), as well as jewellery such as rings, bracelets, necklaces, brooches, pins, spiraled tubes, seals and rosettes attached on a -now lost- head cover. The age of the dead is estimated as young from osteological analysis, which situates our die and its gaming assemblage in the cultural context of the “mors immatura” in Archaic Greece. Dice among other gaming pieces are known from antiquity, yet undisturbed (and sexed) contexts of the Archaic period are rare. In the 6th century BC dice occur in sanctuaries; none is known from Boeotia, hence the significance of publishing one here in its assorted grave-group.

Keywords

  • Boeotian die
  • grave group
  • woman
Open Access

Roman Game Finds from Cremona (Italy)

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 197 - 224

Abstract

Abstract

Finds pertaining to board games have been discovered during excavations in the northern Italian town of Cremona. Some objects were found in the recently published Piazza Marconi dig, in contexts belonging to three domus dated between the late Republic and the early Empire (40 BC - 69 AD). Thirteen black and white glass counters and two ivory dice were found in the remains of a wooden chest of drawers or cabinet in a probable service room of the “Domus del ninfeo”. A bone “Alexandrian” counter incised with a bird in flight and, on the reverse, the Roman numeral II and the Greek number B (beta) was found in the destruction levels following the drastic siege of Cremona by Vespasian troops during the civil war of 69 AD. Finally, a bone token in the form of an elongated parallelepiped (so-called tessera lusoria) with the word FICOSE inscribed on one side and the Roman numeral XIV on the other was found in the construction trench of an early Imperial house discovered during excavations underneath the Cathedral of Cremona. The paper will discuss in detail the finds, their contexts and their meanings.

Keywords

  • Roman Cremona
  • glass counters
  • ivory dice
  • bone “Alexandrian” counters
  • board games
Open Access

Pavement Designs and Game Boards from Public Spaces of Ancient Athens: A Review Across the Board

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 225 - 249

Abstract

Abstract

The paper aims to offer significant new additions to the record of pavements designs known from archaeological contexts in the ancient Mediterranean, giving an overview of the patterns carved on marble steeps and floors in public spaces of ancient Athens. Given the problematic interpretation of carved outlines in ancient public spaces, the contribution focuses on features and locations of these patterns in the attempt to provide identification of actual game boards, contextualize them and propose their plausible chronological setting. The need to more fully understand the social and cultural dimension of play in ancient societies is now crucial to archaeological research; this paper is also offered as a contribution to approaching that understanding.

Keywords

  • Graffiti
  • carved pavement designs
  • gameboards
  • Athens
  • Agora
  • public space
Open Access

Game Board or Abacus? Greek Counter Culture Revisited

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 251 - 307

Abstract

Abstract

A late 5th century BC funerary altar from the necropolis of Krannon (Central Greece) depicts a bearded man and a boy on either side of a board with five lines carved on a block. The fact that the man is seated and the horizontal position of the board reveal important information about Greek education and the history of Greek numeracy. This paper analyses the iconography of the relief, the link between the Five Lines game (Pente grammai) and abaci, examines the possible identification of the man as a “pebble arithmetician”, of the boy as a student, and suggests a new reconstruction of the reckoning system operated on an abacus composed of five horizontal lines. A special practical function is proposed for the half-circle at one end of the abacus. This five lines pattern and the related material, especially counters, are considered from a wider perspective, a system of cultural practices associated with boards and counters throughout the Greek world.

Keywords

  • Abacus
  • arithmetics
  • boardgame
  • tombstone
  • numeracy
  • Achilles and Ajax
Open Access

The Knucklebone and the Goose: Playing and Jeopardy for the Boy of Lilaia

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 309 - 337

Abstract

Abstract

A particularly beautiful marble statue of a boy, a dedication unearthed in Lilaia, Phokis, and on display in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens, is an opportunity for us to explore the connection between the boys’ games and the jeopardy in their outcome. Both the expression on the boy’s face and the way he holds an astragal and a goose demand multiple levels of reading. These are related to the intent of the dedication in the first place, the identification of the games requiring an astragal or involving a goose, as well as to the choice of these specific playthings for the particular imagery. Why is he holding a single astragal, and in such a particular way? Why is the goose included in the picture, and what species of Anatidae is this? The apparent originality of the motif and of the work, in comparison with other well-known Hellenistic representations in stone or terracotta, dictated our research into the milieu of artistic and symbolic quests of that period, and also a reflection on the choice of the artist to designate a child as the owner of the playthings within a particular spatial and temporal context, perhaps associated with healing frοm a life-threatening fever.

Keywords

  • Boy
  • goose
  • astragal
  • game
  • divination
  • healing
  • children’s statues
Open Access

A Playful Coroplast? A New Look at the Terracotta Group of the Early Roman Board-Game Players NAM 4200 and Related Finds

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 339 - 368

Abstract

Abstract

The paper aims to offer a new look on the published early Roman terracotta group of the National Archaeological Museum inv. no. 4200, which is comprised of a male and female couple of board-game players in the company of a dwarf, by reanalysing its figures, board-game type and presenting some of its hitherto unknown details in the form of impressed images made by the coroplast on the back of the two player figures. These impressed images, if intentional, meaningful and not random, together with parallel finds, are examined in the light of information they can offer regarding the board-game type represented in the terracotta group, the possible winner of the game or gaming attitudes related to the gestures of the figures. An overview of relevant Roman and earlier literary sources and comparisons with related finds are included. Instances of ceramic, terracotta, metal or other finds with -random or intentional- impressed signs and symbols made in coroplastic or pottery workshops, as well as examples of post-manufacture graffiti by a possible user are presented and investigated, leading to possible interpretations of ludic concepts represented by the figural synthesis of the terracotta group NAM 4200.

Keywords

  • Terracotta-group
  • Roman
  • Athens
  • game-board
  • bird (goose)
  • flower
Open Access

Catacomb Games: Reused Game Boards or Funerary Inscriptions?

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 369 - 395

Abstract

Abstract

Several marble slabs fashioned like game boards for XII scripta/Alea come from Christian catacombs in Rome. Often deliberately cut or fragmented, they were used as funeral slabs. The general opinion is that these game boards have found a secondary use in the funeral context. The present paper presents a critical discussion of this interpretation. The slabs differ in several details from real game boards. Moreover, the inscriptions often betray a distinctive funeral character. Game boards for this game consist of three rows of two groups of six squares, their structure thus being identical to the poetic form of a hexagram. It appears that in Late Antiquity, the hexagram was particularly popular as a formula for funerary inscriptions. Moreover, the symbolic meaning of the XII scripta/Alea game favoured its use in sepulchral contexts. It seems therefore that at least a certain number, if not most of these “game” boards, were produced as funeral slabs and never used before as game boards in the home of the living.

Keywords

  • XII Scripta
  • Alea
  • Catacombs
  • Games
  • Circus
  • Christian
  • Funeral
  • Inscriptions
  • Reuse
Open Access

Une « Triple Enceinte » Et L’inscription Funéraire De Agate Filia Comites Gattilanis À Milan

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 397 - 412

Abstract

Abstract

The funerary slab of Agate, daughter of an Ostrogoth comes, dated to 512 AD, shows a hitherto unnoticed tabula lusoria or symbolic representation in the blank space below the inscription. The pattern, used for the game of Nine men’s morris, is accurately incised, and not hastily scratched, in a central and visible position. Interesting questions arise: is the pattern a game board? Is it precedent, coeval or posterior to the funerary inscription? How could the presence of the design be explained in such a context? Could the Nine men’s morris pattern have had a symbolic overtone, or is it just connected to a secondary utilization of the slab? These questions will be evaluated mainly through the reconstruction of the conservation history of the slab.

Keywords

  • symbolism
  • Nine men’s morris
  • funerary stele
  • Milan
  • reuse
Open Access

Plato Plays Polis

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 413 - 430

Abstract

Abstract

At Republic 422e1-423a2, while discussing Callipolis and its ability to wage war, Socrates makes a punning reference to the ancient boardgame polis. In this contest, two opponents deployed sets of identical pessoi (counters) to surround and capture the enemy’s forces. Socrates’ allusion is not simply amusing; it is well-suited to the dialogue’s philosophical content and historical context. With regard to philosophy, Callipolis’ guardians resemble the pessoi. Their training makes them equal and interchangeable, while their personal interests are subordinated to those of the group to discourage dissent (stasis) and promote unity. Elsewhere in the Platonic corpus, learning to play polis is mentioned as part of a philosophical education. In the hands of a skilled practitioner like Socrates, dialectic is like playing polis. With regard to history, the Republic’s main interlocutors (Socrates, Adeimantus, Glaucon) were soldiers known for their bravery. Moreover, its readers remembered the rule of the Thirty Tyrants and its aftermath. Indeed, the dialogue’s arguments about the just city and regime change are framed by an allusion to the movements of Thrasybulus and Critias and their respective troops around the game board of Attica. At Athens, polis was played for high stakes, namely the polis itself.

Keywords

  • Plato
  • Socrates
  • game
  • counters
Open Access

Rolling Dice for Divination, Gambling and Homeromanteia

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 431 - 447

Abstract

Abstract

Everyday tools such as dice and knucklebones are associated with gambling and divinatory books founded upon the use of Homeric epics. Papyrological documents about this practice date back to Roman Imperial times. Verses drawn from Iliad and Odyssey were currently assigned to a divinely inspired wisdom. The preface to Homeromanteia shows a link with religious and divinatory ideas current at that time (hilastic invocations, hemeromancy, cledonism).

Keywords

  • Homeromancy
  • lot-oracles
  • hemeromancy
  • gambling
  • alea
  • dice
  • knucklebones
Open Access

Board Games in Ancient Fiction: Egypt, Iran, Greece

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 449 - 490

Abstract

Abstract

Board games are often used as a plot motif in modern genre fiction, especially in detective and adventure stories. In these types of narrative, a well-known pattern of storytelling or literary structure (e.g., the treasure hunt, the detection of serial crimes, the iniatory course, or the medieval tale collection) is reworked and adapted to the rules and phases of a board game such as chess, jeu de l’oie, or the tarot card pack. This literary practice is very ancient and may be traced back to a number of novelistic compositions of the ancient Near East, dating from the 1st millennium BC to late antiquity. In the Demotic Egyptian Tale of Setne Khaemwaset, from the Saite period, the protagonist Setne plays a board game (probably senet) with the mummy of a long dead and buried magician, in order to gain a powerful book of spells. The widespread Near-Eastern story-pattern of the magical competition is here superimposed on the procedure of a celebrated Egyptian game. In a late Hellenistic Greek novella inspired by the Odyssey (Apion of Alexandria, FGrH 616 F36) Penelope’s suitors play an elaborate game of marbles (petteia) in order to determine which one of them will marry the queen. This is a playful rewriting of the famous bow contest of the Homeric epic. A Sasanian novelistic work, the Wizārišn ī čatrang, adapts the age-old legend of the riddle contest of kings; the riddles are replaced with board games (chess and backgammon), which the opponents invent and propose to each other as difficult puzzles for solution. In all these texts the board game becomes a central symbol of the transformative and innovative power of literary narrative.

Keywords

  • Games in literature
  • narrative
  • magical contest
  • riddle contest
  • wooing contest
16 Articles
Open Access

Back to the Game: Reframing Play and Games in Context An Introduction

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 1 - 7

Abstract

Open Access

Amulets, Gaming Pieces, Toys or Offerings? Thoughts on Animal Figurines and Funerary Practices in the Late Bronze Age Aegean

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 9 - 50

Abstract

Abstract

The assemblage of four cones (ivory, stone) and an astragalus marked with dots from Katsambas in Crete is so far the best evidence of gaming pieces uncovered in an Aegean tomb of the Late Bronze Age. A small faience animal associated with the same burial, that of a child, attracted however little attention, and raises the question whether it may be added as a possible game piece to this set. Although this holed piece was certainly used as a personal ornament or amulet, this paper gives the opportunity to review the functions of small faience, stone and ivory animal figurines in the Aegean, especially the couchant ones. It also introduces the notion of chance and fate linked to playing on the basis of cross-cultural comparisons in the Eastern Mediterranean. Additionally, the hypothesis that small standing terracotta quadrupeds may have initially served as toys before having functioned as votive or funerary offerings in Aegean cult places and tombs is further explored. Special interest is shown on Mycenaean funerary assemblages from Prosymna in the Argolid and Perati in Attica featuring small terracotta animals and cone shells, inasmuch as these objects may be seen as potential toys and gaming pieces.

Keywords

  • Grave goods
  • jewellery
  • Minoan Crete
  • Mycenaean Greece
  • Late Cypriot
Open Access

Why so Serious? An Extraordinary Cone Shell Group from Mycenae and the Problem of Identifying Mycenaean Board Gaming Material

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 51 - 93

Abstract

Abstract

In 1974 in Room Θ3 of House Θ in the Southwest Quarter of the Mycenae citadel, an extraordinary find came to light: 545 conus mediterraneus ventricosus shells were found together with 12 small objects in a crevice of the bedrock. 353 cones were intentionally pierced and ground, and 9 of them were filled with lead. This assemblage includes the largest collection of cone shells known from the Late Bronze Age Aegean, and it is now possible to attempt an interpretation of its use, after the publication of the Southwest Quarter excavation. The find is examined in detail, in comparison to other large cone shell groups from Mycenaean contexts. The facts suggest that the Θ3 assemblage artefacts could have been markers for a kind of game, for which games of strategy, skill and chance known in the Eastern Mediterranean, are suggested as possible candidates. Under this hypothesis, context finds from the Room Θ3 deposit are also examined. This study highlights the difficulty in identifying the material remains of board games, as well as the need to include the game – being a basic human activity- in the potential interpretations of archaeological records from the Mycenaean period.

Keywords

  • Cone shells
  • board games
  • gaming pieces
  • Mycenaean
  • Late Bronze Age
Open Access

Games and Oracular Practices Around the Hearth: The “Table of Offerings” from the so-called Temple 4 at Kition-Kathari (Cyprus)

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 95 - 128

Abstract

Abstract

In the sanctuary of Kition-Kathari (Cyprus), a building with benches, identified as a temple (“Temple 4”), is characterized in its centre by a hearth pit next to a trapezoidal stone construction, constituting “Altar E”. The platform’s surface comprises a series of little cup-holes. Once labelled “table of offerings”, it has recently been interpreted as a gaming table. Besides clay gaming stones, this area has yielded knucklebones as well as several deposits of incised scapulae linked with divination practices. This Cypriot context gives us the opportunity to explore and also to put in light the influences and interactions between different regions of the Eastern Mediterranean at the turn of the 1st millennium BC.

Keywords

  • Gaming table
  • gaming stones
  • hearth
  • altar
  • merchant-mariners’ context
Open Access

Board Games Equipment from Archaeological Contexts in Archaic Attica

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 129 - 157

Abstract

Abstract

This paper addresses the question of the presence of gaming equipment (painted gaming tables and dice) in Attic tombs of the 7th and 6th century BC. It is argued that this type of funerary goods, whether functional at once, or not, have acquired a specific social and ideological meaning related to the notion of leisure, specifically destined to the upper classes. They first appear in the early 7th century, when such equipment must have been a rarity in mainland Greece, and their use was revived during the first third of the 6th century BC, a period of polarization between the aristocracy and the rest of the Athenian population.

Keywords

  • Board games
  • gaming tables
  • die
  • funerals
  • Attica
Open Access

A Boeotian Die in Context: Gaming Pieces, Jewellery, Seals, Spindle Whorls and Bird Bowls in a Female Burial of Status

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 159 - 195

Abstract

Abstract

The present paper presents a die in its archaeological context, which is a rich grave in the region of Boeotia. It attempts to understand with what other items this gaming piece coexisted and why, as well as who was the person who played with it during lifetime. The Boeotian die is a solid cube made of clay that presents a peculiarity in its numbering system, for the face normally bearing six dots features twenty-five instead. The date of the die in the Archaic period and the sex of the deceased can be established from its associated grave-group which comprises 48 Boeotian (mostly bird bowls) and Late Corinthian vases, minor objects, such as spindle whorls, and gaming pieces from raw natural materials (such as pebbles, shells, a terracotta animal in secondary use, etc), as well as jewellery such as rings, bracelets, necklaces, brooches, pins, spiraled tubes, seals and rosettes attached on a -now lost- head cover. The age of the dead is estimated as young from osteological analysis, which situates our die and its gaming assemblage in the cultural context of the “mors immatura” in Archaic Greece. Dice among other gaming pieces are known from antiquity, yet undisturbed (and sexed) contexts of the Archaic period are rare. In the 6th century BC dice occur in sanctuaries; none is known from Boeotia, hence the significance of publishing one here in its assorted grave-group.

Keywords

  • Boeotian die
  • grave group
  • woman
Open Access

Roman Game Finds from Cremona (Italy)

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 197 - 224

Abstract

Abstract

Finds pertaining to board games have been discovered during excavations in the northern Italian town of Cremona. Some objects were found in the recently published Piazza Marconi dig, in contexts belonging to three domus dated between the late Republic and the early Empire (40 BC - 69 AD). Thirteen black and white glass counters and two ivory dice were found in the remains of a wooden chest of drawers or cabinet in a probable service room of the “Domus del ninfeo”. A bone “Alexandrian” counter incised with a bird in flight and, on the reverse, the Roman numeral II and the Greek number B (beta) was found in the destruction levels following the drastic siege of Cremona by Vespasian troops during the civil war of 69 AD. Finally, a bone token in the form of an elongated parallelepiped (so-called tessera lusoria) with the word FICOSE inscribed on one side and the Roman numeral XIV on the other was found in the construction trench of an early Imperial house discovered during excavations underneath the Cathedral of Cremona. The paper will discuss in detail the finds, their contexts and their meanings.

Keywords

  • Roman Cremona
  • glass counters
  • ivory dice
  • bone “Alexandrian” counters
  • board games
Open Access

Pavement Designs and Game Boards from Public Spaces of Ancient Athens: A Review Across the Board

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 225 - 249

Abstract

Abstract

The paper aims to offer significant new additions to the record of pavements designs known from archaeological contexts in the ancient Mediterranean, giving an overview of the patterns carved on marble steeps and floors in public spaces of ancient Athens. Given the problematic interpretation of carved outlines in ancient public spaces, the contribution focuses on features and locations of these patterns in the attempt to provide identification of actual game boards, contextualize them and propose their plausible chronological setting. The need to more fully understand the social and cultural dimension of play in ancient societies is now crucial to archaeological research; this paper is also offered as a contribution to approaching that understanding.

Keywords

  • Graffiti
  • carved pavement designs
  • gameboards
  • Athens
  • Agora
  • public space
Open Access

Game Board or Abacus? Greek Counter Culture Revisited

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 251 - 307

Abstract

Abstract

A late 5th century BC funerary altar from the necropolis of Krannon (Central Greece) depicts a bearded man and a boy on either side of a board with five lines carved on a block. The fact that the man is seated and the horizontal position of the board reveal important information about Greek education and the history of Greek numeracy. This paper analyses the iconography of the relief, the link between the Five Lines game (Pente grammai) and abaci, examines the possible identification of the man as a “pebble arithmetician”, of the boy as a student, and suggests a new reconstruction of the reckoning system operated on an abacus composed of five horizontal lines. A special practical function is proposed for the half-circle at one end of the abacus. This five lines pattern and the related material, especially counters, are considered from a wider perspective, a system of cultural practices associated with boards and counters throughout the Greek world.

Keywords

  • Abacus
  • arithmetics
  • boardgame
  • tombstone
  • numeracy
  • Achilles and Ajax
Open Access

The Knucklebone and the Goose: Playing and Jeopardy for the Boy of Lilaia

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 309 - 337

Abstract

Abstract

A particularly beautiful marble statue of a boy, a dedication unearthed in Lilaia, Phokis, and on display in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens, is an opportunity for us to explore the connection between the boys’ games and the jeopardy in their outcome. Both the expression on the boy’s face and the way he holds an astragal and a goose demand multiple levels of reading. These are related to the intent of the dedication in the first place, the identification of the games requiring an astragal or involving a goose, as well as to the choice of these specific playthings for the particular imagery. Why is he holding a single astragal, and in such a particular way? Why is the goose included in the picture, and what species of Anatidae is this? The apparent originality of the motif and of the work, in comparison with other well-known Hellenistic representations in stone or terracotta, dictated our research into the milieu of artistic and symbolic quests of that period, and also a reflection on the choice of the artist to designate a child as the owner of the playthings within a particular spatial and temporal context, perhaps associated with healing frοm a life-threatening fever.

Keywords

  • Boy
  • goose
  • astragal
  • game
  • divination
  • healing
  • children’s statues
Open Access

A Playful Coroplast? A New Look at the Terracotta Group of the Early Roman Board-Game Players NAM 4200 and Related Finds

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 339 - 368

Abstract

Abstract

The paper aims to offer a new look on the published early Roman terracotta group of the National Archaeological Museum inv. no. 4200, which is comprised of a male and female couple of board-game players in the company of a dwarf, by reanalysing its figures, board-game type and presenting some of its hitherto unknown details in the form of impressed images made by the coroplast on the back of the two player figures. These impressed images, if intentional, meaningful and not random, together with parallel finds, are examined in the light of information they can offer regarding the board-game type represented in the terracotta group, the possible winner of the game or gaming attitudes related to the gestures of the figures. An overview of relevant Roman and earlier literary sources and comparisons with related finds are included. Instances of ceramic, terracotta, metal or other finds with -random or intentional- impressed signs and symbols made in coroplastic or pottery workshops, as well as examples of post-manufacture graffiti by a possible user are presented and investigated, leading to possible interpretations of ludic concepts represented by the figural synthesis of the terracotta group NAM 4200.

Keywords

  • Terracotta-group
  • Roman
  • Athens
  • game-board
  • bird (goose)
  • flower
Open Access

Catacomb Games: Reused Game Boards or Funerary Inscriptions?

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 369 - 395

Abstract

Abstract

Several marble slabs fashioned like game boards for XII scripta/Alea come from Christian catacombs in Rome. Often deliberately cut or fragmented, they were used as funeral slabs. The general opinion is that these game boards have found a secondary use in the funeral context. The present paper presents a critical discussion of this interpretation. The slabs differ in several details from real game boards. Moreover, the inscriptions often betray a distinctive funeral character. Game boards for this game consist of three rows of two groups of six squares, their structure thus being identical to the poetic form of a hexagram. It appears that in Late Antiquity, the hexagram was particularly popular as a formula for funerary inscriptions. Moreover, the symbolic meaning of the XII scripta/Alea game favoured its use in sepulchral contexts. It seems therefore that at least a certain number, if not most of these “game” boards, were produced as funeral slabs and never used before as game boards in the home of the living.

Keywords

  • XII Scripta
  • Alea
  • Catacombs
  • Games
  • Circus
  • Christian
  • Funeral
  • Inscriptions
  • Reuse
Open Access

Une « Triple Enceinte » Et L’inscription Funéraire De Agate Filia Comites Gattilanis À Milan

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 397 - 412

Abstract

Abstract

The funerary slab of Agate, daughter of an Ostrogoth comes, dated to 512 AD, shows a hitherto unnoticed tabula lusoria or symbolic representation in the blank space below the inscription. The pattern, used for the game of Nine men’s morris, is accurately incised, and not hastily scratched, in a central and visible position. Interesting questions arise: is the pattern a game board? Is it precedent, coeval or posterior to the funerary inscription? How could the presence of the design be explained in such a context? Could the Nine men’s morris pattern have had a symbolic overtone, or is it just connected to a secondary utilization of the slab? These questions will be evaluated mainly through the reconstruction of the conservation history of the slab.

Keywords

  • symbolism
  • Nine men’s morris
  • funerary stele
  • Milan
  • reuse
Open Access

Plato Plays Polis

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 413 - 430

Abstract

Abstract

At Republic 422e1-423a2, while discussing Callipolis and its ability to wage war, Socrates makes a punning reference to the ancient boardgame polis. In this contest, two opponents deployed sets of identical pessoi (counters) to surround and capture the enemy’s forces. Socrates’ allusion is not simply amusing; it is well-suited to the dialogue’s philosophical content and historical context. With regard to philosophy, Callipolis’ guardians resemble the pessoi. Their training makes them equal and interchangeable, while their personal interests are subordinated to those of the group to discourage dissent (stasis) and promote unity. Elsewhere in the Platonic corpus, learning to play polis is mentioned as part of a philosophical education. In the hands of a skilled practitioner like Socrates, dialectic is like playing polis. With regard to history, the Republic’s main interlocutors (Socrates, Adeimantus, Glaucon) were soldiers known for their bravery. Moreover, its readers remembered the rule of the Thirty Tyrants and its aftermath. Indeed, the dialogue’s arguments about the just city and regime change are framed by an allusion to the movements of Thrasybulus and Critias and their respective troops around the game board of Attica. At Athens, polis was played for high stakes, namely the polis itself.

Keywords

  • Plato
  • Socrates
  • game
  • counters
Open Access

Rolling Dice for Divination, Gambling and Homeromanteia

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 431 - 447

Abstract

Abstract

Everyday tools such as dice and knucklebones are associated with gambling and divinatory books founded upon the use of Homeric epics. Papyrological documents about this practice date back to Roman Imperial times. Verses drawn from Iliad and Odyssey were currently assigned to a divinely inspired wisdom. The preface to Homeromanteia shows a link with religious and divinatory ideas current at that time (hilastic invocations, hemeromancy, cledonism).

Keywords

  • Homeromancy
  • lot-oracles
  • hemeromancy
  • gambling
  • alea
  • dice
  • knucklebones
Open Access

Board Games in Ancient Fiction: Egypt, Iran, Greece

Published Online: 26 Apr 2022
Page range: 449 - 490

Abstract

Abstract

Board games are often used as a plot motif in modern genre fiction, especially in detective and adventure stories. In these types of narrative, a well-known pattern of storytelling or literary structure (e.g., the treasure hunt, the detection of serial crimes, the iniatory course, or the medieval tale collection) is reworked and adapted to the rules and phases of a board game such as chess, jeu de l’oie, or the tarot card pack. This literary practice is very ancient and may be traced back to a number of novelistic compositions of the ancient Near East, dating from the 1st millennium BC to late antiquity. In the Demotic Egyptian Tale of Setne Khaemwaset, from the Saite period, the protagonist Setne plays a board game (probably senet) with the mummy of a long dead and buried magician, in order to gain a powerful book of spells. The widespread Near-Eastern story-pattern of the magical competition is here superimposed on the procedure of a celebrated Egyptian game. In a late Hellenistic Greek novella inspired by the Odyssey (Apion of Alexandria, FGrH 616 F36) Penelope’s suitors play an elaborate game of marbles (petteia) in order to determine which one of them will marry the queen. This is a playful rewriting of the famous bow contest of the Homeric epic. A Sasanian novelistic work, the Wizārišn ī čatrang, adapts the age-old legend of the riddle contest of kings; the riddles are replaced with board games (chess and backgammon), which the opponents invent and propose to each other as difficult puzzles for solution. In all these texts the board game becomes a central symbol of the transformative and innovative power of literary narrative.

Keywords

  • Games in literature
  • narrative
  • magical contest
  • riddle contest
  • wooing contest

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