[0.8] Re: hist-games: Latrunculi

Mats Winther mwi9 at swipnet.se
Thu Nov 24 09:41:52 PST 2005

Den 2005-11-24 09:33:27 skrev <u.schaedler at museedujeu.com>:

> 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.
> Best
> Ulrich

On the 5x5 poleis ('cities') board each party had 5 pieces. It's probable,
then, that these were not dropped, but were put on each side of the
board, representing two cities in war.

Egyptian siga, on the other hand, had many more pieces and these were
dropped onto the board. This is reminiscent of latrunculi in your rendition.

Egyptian culture is older than both the Greek and Roman cultures. Hence,
their games were older, too. We know that some of the game diagrams
on the Kurna roof (1400 BC) were incised before the stones were finally
laid, since in trimming the edges of the slabs on which they occur so as
to make them fit against the adjoining ones, the masons cut away part
of these diagrams. So it's quite probable that the siga boards, too, are
equally old.

Hence, Egyptian siga is quite likely to be the "Mother of all board-


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