hist-games: Greek and Roman 'draughts/checkers'

Christian Joachim Hartmann lukian at Null.net
Wed Dec 3 01:46:51 PST 1997

>>David Salley wrote:
>>>         CHECKERS or DRAUGHTS
>>> [quoting the Brittanica]
>>>         "That checkers was played in the days of the earlier Pharoahs is
>>>         well authenticated by Egyptian history and the British Museum
>>>         specimens of primitive boards quite similar to modern ones. ...
>>>         Plato and Homer mentioned the game in their works and the Romans
>>>         are believed to have imported it from the Greeks.   ... [T]he
>>>         earliest publications on record manifest the 12 men on each side
>>>         and our conventional board.

At 11:12 02/12/97 -0500, Mark Waks <justin at intermetrics.com> wrote:

>>Okay, now I'm intrigued -- this is quite different from the conventional
>>wisdom I've heard. I've never seen Checkers listed as a game of ancient
>>Egypt, and the received wisdom I've always heard is that it's a
>>middle-of-period descendent of Alquerques, altered to fit a chessboard.
>>Does anyone know more about this? While I'm willing to believe that it's
>>considerably more ancient, I'm not going to accept it on the word of a
>>single non-specialty secondary source. Are there other references that
>>folks know about? Do we know what these references in Plato and Homer
>>actually say?

At 17:09 02.12.97 +0000, Alex R. Kraaijeveld wrote:

>As far as I know, all these claims of the Romans and Greek already playing
>draughts/checkers comes from a rather 'loose' translation of the Greek
>'petteia' or 'poleis' and the Roman 'ludus latrunculorum'. Although the
>exact details of these games are not known, they were surely no form of
>References for petteia / poleis / latrunculus:
>Austin RG, 1934. Roman board games I. Greece and Rome 4: 24-34.
>Austin RG, 1935. Roman board games II. Greece and Rome 4: 76-82.
>Austin RG, 1940. Greek board games. Antiquity 14: 257-271.
>There is a recent publication on latrunculus which I haven't been able to
>get my hands on as yet (anyone who has?):
>Schadler, U., 1994. Latrunculi - ein verlorenes strategisches Brettspiel
>der Romer.
>published in: Homo ludens IV
>I'm not sure what Egyptian game is referred to; 'senet' and 'tau' etc seem
>to have been race-games rather then war-games .....
>Cheers, Lex

I think we should stick to the Alquerque explanation as the basis of this faq.
Archeological finds of boards similar to the Alquerque-board or the
Checkers/Chess-board could be appended.

I found a reference stating that a similar board was found in Kurna (Egypt)
around 1400 B.C. I suppose it was scratched on the same block of stone
with the early Nin-Men's-Morris-board and the early Mancala-board. :-)

**       Christian Joachim Hartmann 
**       lukian at Null.net
**       christian.hartmann at uni-duesseldorf.de

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