Gambling in Antiquity

7 July 2023 Published by Leave your thoughts

“Gambling in antiquity” is a fascinating phenomenon that has its roots in the dawn of human civilizations. Despite the complex slot machines and high-tech poker tables of modern casinos, the essence of gambling has remained essentially unchanged for thousands of years.


Gambling in Antiquity: Egypt

The earliest historical evidence of gambling dates back to ancient Egypt, more than 4000 years ago. Archaeologists have discovered numerous objects, such as graffiti on monuments and clay tablets, depicting images of gambling. A popular game was “Senet”, an ancient board game that had elements of both strategy and luck. Moreover, it was discovered that the ancient Egyptians also bet on the outcome of sports events, such as boat races on the Nile.

Gambling in Antiquity: Greece

Gambling was a common element of life in ancient Greece. The Greeks were particularly fond of dice, and many of their games involved elements of betting. In fact, the ancient Greek poet Sophocles reported that dice were invented by a mythical hero during the siege of Troy. Similarly, board games were widespread, including “Petteia” and “Pessoi”, ancestors of modern backgammon.

Gambling in Ancient Rome

Ancient Rome was famous for its passion for gambling. Despite gambling being technically illegal during holidays — a law that was rarely enforced — the Romans were known to be big bettors. Dice were particularly popular, and “Terni Lapilli”, a game similar to the modern game of the goose, was a common pastime. Bets on gladiator shows were also very common.

The Ancient East and the Evolution of Gambling

Ancient China played a fundamental role in the history of “gambling in antiquity”. Some of the oldest gambling games originated in China. The game of Keno, for example, dates back to 200 BC and is still popular in today’s casinos. The first playing cards appear to have been invented in China around the 9th century, marking a significant step forward in the history of gambling.

Conclusion

“Gambling in antiquity” provides a fascinating insight into the origins of a practice that has survived and evolved over millennia. From ancient Egypt to imperial Rome, passing through classical Greece and ancient China, gambling has always represented a fundamental aspect of human culture and entertainment. This historical overview allows us not only to better understand how gambling has developed over time, but also to appreciate the role it has played in different societies through the ages.

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