Sei sulla pagina 1di 6

!

THE EFFECTS OF ROMAN CULTURE AND CONQUEST ON GAME DEVELOPMENT


PERSONAL GAME HISTORY ESSAY By Robert Gervais Putting on Our Ethnological Lenses A group of historians observe that, even the most primitive peoples knew many kinds of games. (Pareti, Brezzi and Petech 193). By playing and observing ancient games, ethnologists study the mechanics of game families and groups in order to learn about the important aspects of cultures4. To further the importance of studying games, a nineteenth century ethnologist, Stuart Culin, writes that, games were not only the product of primitive conditions, but represent the means by which man endeavored to bring himself into communion with and to penetrate the secrets of the natural powers that surrounded him.8 (355) Roman culture and conquest had a significant effect on game development and; games are used by ethnologists to trace the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. Support is found by exploring where Roman legionnaires disseminated games throughout the Empire, and how Romans developed games that indicate the rise and fall of the Empire. Roman Legionnaires Disseminated Games Throughout The Empire By studying the dissemination of game boards, game ethnologists can determine the extent of the Roman Empires influence throughout its conquered territories. The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History states that, The Romans took their way of life to all the lands they conquered. (188) When Roman armies invaded a country; they often built fortifications for their legionary base of operations. When the legionnaires werent fighting battles or strengthening their fortifications, they would use their leisure time to play games amongst each other with the game boards they carried with them. The Encyclopedia continues to mention that, Retired Roman soldiers settled down to farm the land they had conquered, settlements grew up near Roman camps and forts. (188) It was within the confines of these settlements where the legionnaires disseminated the game boards they used, and consequently the games they played. Purcell observes that in Roman times, the gamer was a soldier, and his war was play; his play equipment had meaning in both worlds. (26) Archaeological Evidence of Roman Game Boards Found in Britain R.G. Austin writes that archaeological finds provide evidence that games were found throughout Britain and that the frequency of the finds suggests that a popular game was played throughout the island. Austin specifically cites evidence of, A number of stone boards have been found in Roman sites in Britain. (26)

Austin also finds that game boards were located along Hadrians Wall and within the Roman settlements of Corbridge, Richborough, and Chedworth1: all of which were established and defended by Roman legionnaires. Archaeological Evidence of Roman Game Boards Found in Asia Minor Throughout the course of his researching the dissemination of Roman games throughout the Empire9, a noted game archaeologist, Dr. Ulrich Shaedler, finds archaeological evidence of game boards located within Roman settlements throughout Asia Minor. Ulrich points out that Roman legionnaires left game boards in the ancient Asia Minor settlements of Aphrodisias, Ephesus, Miletus, Cnidus and ancient Izmir. (11) Archaeological Evidence of Roman Game Boards Found in Egypt Lastly, archaeologists publish evidence of twenty game boards within a remote Roman fort located in Egypt10. Evidence at the site suggests that, during the long days and cool nights, roman soldiers no doubt played board games and gambled incessantly. (Mulvin & Sidebotham, 602) Romans Develop Games that Indicate the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire By playing and observing the mechanics of the Backgammon and Latrunculorum game groups, ethnologists use the mechanics of game families to learn about the important aspects of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. Specifically, Roman cultural influence on the development of Ludus Latrunculorum (War Game Group) offers ethnological clues regarding the rise of the Roman Empire. The Roman cultural influence on the development of Alea (Backgammon Game Group) and its subsequent influence on Roman culture offer archaeological and ethnological clues regarding the fall of the Roman Empire. Evidence Regarding Roman Influence in the Development of Ludus Latrunculorum Rome became a Republic after 509 BC when they drove their last king out of power4. Additionally, the author states that while Rome was led by the Senate, the Romans gradually conquered all of Italy. (Usborne Encyclopedia, 184). Enter Ludus Latrunculorum around the time of Julius Caesar. While archeologists believe that Seega was the progenitor of this game, (Austin, 28) ethnologists agree that the game was developed during the rise of the Roman Empire. Evidence of the games origination date is found in certain passages from the ancient poem, Laus Pisonis, which may be dated to the middle of the first century AD. (Austin 25) Because the game was invented during the rise of the Roman Empire around the first century AD, ethnologists believe that the development of the game is a

! reflection of the Roman Armys military tradition in the field of battle. In fact, one archaeologist defines ludus latrunculorum as meaning the soldier-game1. In order to understand the Roman influence in the development of Ludus Latrunculorum, ethnologists play the game and find that Roman military tradition significantly influenced the development of the game1. While playing the game, ethnologists determine that the essential principal of the game is to master the mechanic of maneuvering pieces in massed formation as far as possible1. Because the game doesnt use dice, it is imperative that ethnologists master the use of massed formation because it was found that the best tactics consist in massing ones pieces in a solid block. (Austin 30) Conversely, if the player playing the enemy-side of the board were to succeed by breaking through the block, he has free room to maneuver in its rear and gradually to ravage the field. (Austin 30) Theory Regarding Ludus Latrunculorums Ethnological Indication of the Rise of the Roman Empire By observing the core mechanic of the game, which consists of mastering the strategy of moving units across a field of battle, ethnologists are able to understand reasons for the rise of the Roman Empire. Ultimately, the Romans conquered most of the known world because they won wars, and the reason for the many Roman victories in the field is attributed to the fact that, they had a strong, well-organized army, and their soldiers fought in highly disciplined groups. (Usborne Encyclopedia, 186). Evidence Regarding Roman Influence in the Development of Alea Pessoi, the precursor to Alea, is a Greek game invented by the ingenious Palamedes to while away the dull and difficult moments of the Trojan War. (Purcell, 146). Evidence suggests that before the Romans became masters of the known world, their attention had been drawn inevitably to the Greek world. (Magoffin 311) Magoffin writes that, Contact with the Greeks in southern Italy and Sicily taught the Romans to admire Greek civilization, which was superior to their own. (311) It was through their contact with the Greeks that the Romans were initially introduced to Pessoi, which was developed into the game of Alea, and eventually renamed to Tabula in the sixth century3. R.G. Austin makes the distinction that Alea has no relation to the War Game group and that it is part of the Backgammon Game group1 & 2; however, Romes military influence can be seen in the development of the game as Purcell

! observes, The nature of the moves was linked to the art of military tactics. (25) One archaeologist finds that the pieces in Alea are akin to ordinarii or men moving in rank, two or more at a time for protection (Austin 79) as in backgammon. Furthermore, archaeological evidence shows that the numbering of the counters suggests some form of backgammon. (Austin 81). Theory Regarding Aleas Ethnological Indication of the Decline of the Roman Empire Archaeological evidence within a tavern in the city of Pompeii shows the game of Alea being played as part of a gambling exercise7 and ethnologists find that Alea exemplified the connection with a culture of gambling. (Purcell, 5). It is therefore evident, that the Roman influence on the development of Alea from its Greek origins was tied largely to a Roman cultural affair with gambling. Purcell finds that the central feature of Alea is tied to the promise of profit. (9) He points out that the game was about money, and the point of playing was profit. (9) Purcell writes that the closeness of the association between Alea and other forms of economic behavior (21) within Roman society was an indication of the values of the times. Ultimately, the frivolous flow of money contributed to a destabilized Roman economic system, which was the first Alean indicator of the fall of the Roman Empire7. Ethnologists also find evidence that a second problematic indicator of Alea was the diminishing value of time in Roman society. Members from every echelon of society played Alea during all times of the day at one point. Evidently, a Roman Senator named Leticula, had even dared actually to play at Alea in the Roman Forum! (Purcell, 12) The final, and most important Alean indicator of the fall of the Roman Empire was Roman hostility toward Alea7. As gambling and the wasting of time playing Alea grew to huge proportions throughout the Empire, laws were eventually passed to stop the play of Alea. Bell writes that the only time that Alea was allowed was during the Saturnalia festival, where all activity was condoned in hedonistic tradition3. Purcell argues that during the fall of the Roman Empire, Alea was played fervently at all times for the explicit purpose of gambling7. Conclusion In conclusion, evidence shows that Roman culture and conquest had a significant effect

! on game development. By excavating, studying, and playing with the game mechanics of ancient Roman board games, ethnologists are able to examine the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. Principally, ethnologists are able to trace the extent of Roman influence in the ancient world with the archaeological evidence of games found throughout the Empire. Game boards found in the northern reaches of the Empire at Hadrians Wall in Britain, to the southern reaches in Asia Minor and Egypt, suggest that Roman Legionnaires played an important role in disseminating games, and ultimately, the Roman values that they held sacred throughout the vast reaches of the Empire. The dissemination of games throughout the Empire suggests that the Romans were able to not only conquer other peoples, but also assimilate entire cultures into their own fold through the common language of games, which is a strong ethnological indication of the rise of the Roman Empire. It was through the assimilation of other cultures, that Roman conquest absorbed the Greek-invented game of Alea and the Egyptian-invented game Seega into the Roman culture, both of which are studied by ethnologists to trace the influence of conquest and culture on the development of those games into their Roman descendents. Roman influence on the development of Alea created a game that had militaristic elements within the core game mechanics of the game. Ethnologists find that these militaristic stratagems are common to the Roman army during the fifth century AD, and the concept of Roman gamers playing soldier is an ethnological indicator of the strength of Roman military might during the rise of the Roman Empire. Also, evidence of the Roman influence on the War Game of Ludus Latrunculorum, exemplifies the rise of the Roman Empire, because ethnologists also find that the games core mechanics reflect the strength of Roman tactics and military strategy during the first century AD. The Roman Empire ultimately fell, and ethnological theory suggests that the game of Alea serves as a great indicator of Romes failing economic system. The frivolous gambling of money and wasting of time playing the game of Alea led Romans to lash out against the game and ultimately, it was in the hostility toward the game that ethnologists are able to pinpoint the demise of the Roman Empire. !

! Works Cited 1. Austin, Ronald G. "Roman Board Games I." Greece & Rome 4.10 (1934): 24-34. Print. 2. Austin, Ronald G. "Roman Board Games II." Greece & Rome 4.11 (1935): 76-82. Print. 3. Bell, R. C. Board and Table Games: from Many Civilizations. London: Oxford UP, 1960. Print. 4. Bingham, Jane, Fiona Chandler, Sam Taplin, and Susie McCaffrey. The Usborne Internet-linked Encyclopedia of World History. Tulsa, OK: EDC, 2001. Print. 5. Magoffin, Ralph D., and Frederic Duncalf. Ancient and Medieval History. 1939 ed. New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco: Silver Burdett, 1939. Print. 6. Pareti, Luigi, Paolo Brezzi, and Luciano Petech. History of Mankind. Vol. II. New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1965. Print. 7. Purcell, Nicholas. "Literate Games: Roman Urban Society and the Game of Alea." Past & Present 147 (1995): 3-37. Print. 8. Culin, Stewart. "Value of Games In Ethnology." Elliott Avedon Museum and Archive of Games| University of Waterloo. Web. 14 Oct. 2010. <http://www.gamesmuseum.uwaterloo.ca/Archives/Culin/EthnologyValue/index. html>. 9. Schadler, Ulrich. "Mancala in Roman Asia Minor?" Board Game Studies 1 (1998): 1025. Print. 10. Mulvin, Lynda, and Steve E. Sidebotham. "Roman Game Boards from Abu Sha'ar (Red Sea Coast, Egypt)." Antiquity 78.301 (2004): 602-17. Print.!