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date: 02 March 2024



  • Ludwig Alfred Moritz


  • Greek Material Culture
  • Roman Material Culture

Dicing with six-sided dice (κύβοι‎, tesserae) or four-sided knucklebones (ἀστράγαλοι‎, tali; natural or manufactured from e.g. ivory) was a popular amusement in both Greece and Rome, either by itself or in association with board-games. In Rome, where even emperors (esp. Claudius) were keen players, high sums were often staked; and dicing was officially illegal except at the Saturnalia (see Saturnus). Tesserae may have been used in varying numbers, but tali were normally used in fours, the best (though statistically not the rarest) of the 35 possible throws being when each showed a different face (probably = Venus). Canis (‘dog’) was the worst throw with both tali and tesserae, but its precise nature is uncertain. Cheating, sometimes with loaded dice (μεμολυβδωμένοι‎), was not unknown, and to help prevent it the dice-box or ‘tower’ was soon introduced. Finds of ancient dice, which include an Etruscan pair, are not uncommon.


  • Realencyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft 13. 1900 ff., s.v. ‘Lusoria tabula’, esp. 1933 ff.