Ancient Greek and Roman Games

This site has games from both Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece. Many of the games here were played by both civilizations, so it seemed natural to put them together. It isn't surprising that Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece had so much in common because their histories were intertwined.

Greek History

Greek civilization began roughly around the start of the second millennium BC (c. 2200 BC, at the earliest estimation) when the people who spoke the earliest form of Greek settled in the Greek peninsula, although there were other people living there already (Finley 15). The Greeks didn't call themselves "Greeks," and still don't today. The word "Greek" comes from Roman name for the Greeks, Graeci (Finley 16). Greek civilization took several forms over the centuries. The Bronze Age Mycenaeans thrived between 1400 and 1200 B.C. in the Peloponnese, in the southern area of Greece (Finley 15). After the Mycenaean civilization collapsed, there was a period of decline and chaos, but during that period, the Greeks learned to work with iron, which changed Greek society (Finley 15-16). It was also during this time that the Iliad and Odyssey were composed, based around a real war that took place between the Mycenaeans and the Trojans (Finley 19, 21). These epics, attributed to a poet named Homer, were extremely influential on Greek society. According to Herodotus, they were partly responsible for establishing the form of the Greek pantheon: the titles, roles, and genealogy of the Greek gods (Finley 26).

By the time this period of chaos and change ended, the Greeks began calling themselves Hellene, with the word Hellas describing their civilization, although they were not really a single country at that time (Finley 16-17). Greek communities ranged over a wide area surrounding the Mediterranean, as far west as modern Spain and as far east as the Black Sea with territories in northern Africa. However, the people in these communities considered themselves part of same culture, all people of Hellas (Finley 17). The Romans began taking control of Greek communities in the third century BC, and in 31 BC, Roman forces led by Augustus defeated the forces of Antony and Cleopatra at Actium, putting Rome effectively in control of Greek society. However, even though Greek territories were now controlled by the Romans, the culture of these communities remained basically Hellenistic (Finley 29).

Roman History

The ancients origins of a civilization are complex and often difficult to trace precisely, and there are different theories regarding Rome's origins (McGeough 54). It seems that Roman civilization was a result of a blending of different groups of people and cultures over a long period of time. There were people living on the Italian peninsula before the ancestors of the Romans arrived. The earliest Latin speakers arrived c. 1000 BC along with other groups of new immigrants. A community of Latin-speaking people settled on the Palatine Hill (one of the oldest parts of the city of Rome) in the 700s BC. Over time, their language spread through the the entire peninsula. Other groups of people soon joined them, including Greeks, who established colonies in the southern part of the peninsula c. 750 BC, looking for new trading partners. As they began to trade with the Romans, they also influenced the culture of early Rome. The Romans adopted aspects of Greek art and architecture, even coming to worship their gods (Mellor and McGee 20).

Over its long history, Roman civilization became a monarchy (753 BC to 509 BC), a republic (508 BC to c. 29 BC), and finally, an empire (McGeough 45-46). Most historians say that the empire fell in 476 AD, but just as Rome wasn't built in a day, it didn't fall in a single year. It was more of a gradual decline, starting around 235 A.D. There were conflicts over leadership that left Roman society divided and chaotic. Then, other civilizations began to invade. 476 AD is when invading Germans took control of Rome. Even this didn't bring an immediate end to the empire, but it was the turning point which changed everything for Rome (Mellor and McGee 168-171).

Board Games

These are a mixture of Greek and Roman board games, and some of them were played in both Greek and Roman society.

Latrunculi Tabula
Duodecim Scriptorum  

Other Games

The Brazen Fly is an early version of Blindman's Buff, and Knucklebones is an ancestor of modern Jacks. People in Ancient Greece also played Hide and Seek, which they called "Apodidraskinda" (Burns 203).

Brazen Fly Knucklebones

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