[0.8] Re: hist-games: Latrunculi

Mats Winther mwi9 at swipnet.se
Wed Nov 30 02:28:46 PST 2005

Den 2005-11-30 10:31:31 skrev <u.schaedler at museedujeu.com>:

> I don't know where you've got your information from. On the internet there
> is a lot of stupid desinformation around.
> "Poleis" is NOT a generic term for war games (who says so?), it is a name
> of 1 particular game. The greek generic term for board games is "petteia".
> 5 lines: it is perfectly described by Pollux and played on a board with 5
> parallel lines (unmistakeably depicted on a vase in the museum in
> Bruxelles) with 5 pieces for each of the players and dice. It was not a
> war game but a race game, which is clearly stated by Pollux. (a discussion
> of the sources in my article "Damnosa alea" in "5000 Jahre Würfelspiel",
> cat. of the exhibition organized by the Institut für Spielforschung und
> Spielpädagogik Salzburg, 1999, pp.39-58, in part. 40-44)
> The oldest mancala boards I know date to the 4th cent. AD. They have been
> found during recent excavations at Abu Sha'ar, a Roman legionary fortress
> in Egypt (read the article by Sidebotham and Mulvin in Antiquity 78, 2004,
> pp. 602-617). No mancala board dating to the new kingdom has ever been
> found. No pharaonic mancalas have been presented in the famous exhibtion
> 1991 at Marseille. I don't know where Grunfeld got his dating of the
> boards at Luxor and Karnak from (anyway he is not a primary source). The
> origins of mancala are obscure. That the game derives from an Egyptian
> calculation board is pure speculation. I haven't found this assumption in
> no serious publication.
> Best
> Ulrich

Dear Ulrich,

I appreciate your cunning in the area, but 'five lines' is open to interpretation.
The shape of the board speaks against the interpretation that 'five lines'
is a race game. Becq de Fouquières (Jeux des Anciens) assumes a board
of five vertical *and* five horizontal lines and then contends that the game
resembles 'poleis',  with reference to 'petteia'.

So I am willing to bet that 'five lines' is a war-game. It is the 5x5 squares
and 2x5 pieces variant of poleis. Obviously, poleis could be of different
size. In this sense it is a generic term. The 'sacred line' is the middle line
which the player could not slide over, but must stop on before continuing
in the next move.

Mancala boards are scattered all over Crete, carved out in the rock. Such
carvings have been found in Africa, too. I suppose they are hard to date.


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