[0.8] Re: hist-games: Latrunculi

u.schaedler at museedujeu.com u.schaedler at museedujeu.com
Thu Nov 24 00:33:27 PST 2005

Siga: the incisions on the roof of the Kurna temple are not dated.
Probably they are later in date than latrunculi. And we don't know what
has been played on these boards.

Latrunculi/Pol(e)is: The suggestion for the rules of Latrunculi is a
reconstruction. The only facts we know for sure about polis are to be read
in Pollux' Onomastikon (IX 98), 2nd cent.AD: many pieces, pieces are
called dogs, board has fields bounded by lines, board is called city,
capture of singletons by enclosing from two sides. Eustathius in the 12th
century says that the squares were called city, not the board (commentary
to Iliad, 1290,1-3). That's all. We don't know nothing more, especially we
don't know if there was an initial position as in draughts. This is pure
invention. From an historical point of view, the oldest games we know that
have an initial position are chess and nard (same initial position as in
backgammon, dating perhaps to the 3rd century AD). If there was an initial
dropping in poleis too is unknown, but likely, because it's obviously the
same game as latrunculi (it seems that it has still been called polis
during the 2nd half of the 1st mill. AD in the eastern Greek speaking part
of the empire and adjacent regions such as Persia: see my article "The
Talmud, Firdausi and the Greek game "City"", in: J. Retschitzki/R.
Haddad-Zubel (eds.), Step by Step. Proceedings of the 4th colloquium
"Board Games in Academia", Fribourg 2002, pp.91-102). And for latrunculi
there are good reasons to believe that there was an initial dropping,
especially reading carefully the initial sentence in the laus Pisonis:
"callidiore modo tabula variatur aperta calculus": in an intelligent way
the piece is distributed on the open (=empty) board. Simply the term
"variatur" which means "placing here and there" rules out a fixed initial
position and speaks for dropping.


> Den 2005-11-23 15:26:09 skrev <u.schaedler at museedujeu.com>:
>> Hi,
>> first of all we don't know the age of siga. More likely it's the other
>> way
>> round: siga derives from an ancient predecessor.
>> Secondly, the direct predecessor of latrunculi is the Greek game
>> "cities"
>> (or "city", gr. "poleis" or "polis"), where the pieces were called
>> "dogs"
>> and the board or the squares "city". This indicates that the game is not
>> at all a battle simulation. It's simply a board game for two players
>> with
>> capture. Of course one can "read" it in military terms (as every other
>> "wargame" type board game, be it chess or draughts or go), as the author
>> of the "laus Pisonis" in the 1st century did.
>> Cheers
>> Ulrich
> On the other hand, Siga could be quite old, as the 5x5 and 7x7 boards
> appear on the roof of the Kurna temple in Egypt. Moreover, it is much
> more close to Latrunculi on account of the dropping of stones, which
> did not seem to occur in Poleis, which is battle between two
> "cities," that is, it starts with an initial piece setup like in Checkers
> or
> Chess.
> Mats
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