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The History Of Dice And Cards

Volume I

The Gaming Table by Andrew Steinmetz, Volume II

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The History Of Dice And Cards

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The use of dice was probably brought into this island by the
Romans, if not before known; it became more frequent in the times
of our Saxon ancestry, and has prevailed with almost unimpaired
vigour from those days to our own.

The Astragalos of the Greeks and Talus of the Romans were, as
before stated, nothing but the knuckle-bones of sheep and goats,
numbered, and used for gaming, being tossed up in the air and
caught on the back of the hand. Two persons played together at
this game, using four bones, which they threw up into the air or
emptied out of a dice-box (fritillus), observing the numbers of
the opposite sides. The numbers on the four sides of the four
bones admitted of thirty-five different combinations. The lowest
throw of all was four aces; but the value of the throw was not in
all cases the sum of the four numbers turned up. The highest in
value was that called Venus, in which the numbers cast up were
all different; the sum of them being only fourteen. It was by
obtaining this throw, hence called basilicus, that 'the King of
the Feast' was appointed by the Romans. Certain other throws
were called by particular names, taken from the gods, heroes,
kings, courtesans, animals; altogether there were sixty- four
such names. Thus, the throw consisting of two aces and two
treys, making eight, was denominated Stesichorus. When the
object was simply to throw the highest number, the game was
called pleistobolinda, a Greek word of that meaning. When a
person threw the tali, he often invoked either a god or his

Dice were also made of ivory, bone, or some close-grained wood,
especially privet ligustris tesseris utilissima, Plin. H. N.).
They were numbered as at present.

Arsacides, King of the Parthians, presented Demetrius Nicator,
among other presents, with golden dice--it is said, in contempt
for his frivolous propensity to play--in exprobationem puerilis

[58] Justini Hist., lib. xxxviii. 9. 9.

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