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Discover The History Of Dice

Aug 21, 2007
It's been said that "the best throw at dice is to throw them away." That could or could not be true depending upon how you play the game. It's quite true that there is little if any actual skill in shooting craps. It's a game of pure chance. But there is something to be said for knowing the odds for various bets, and not betting when those odds are ridiculously against you.

Dice were probably evolved from knucklebones, and knucklebones from odd-shaped pebbles. The word "probably" is used because those small cubes of bone, ivory, wood or plastic have a contradictory, but romantic, history.

One thing seems certain, knucklebones or dice go back nearly to the creation of man. And wherever dice have been found, whether in the- tombs of ancient Egypt, of classic Greece, or of the far East, they differ in no material respect from those in use today. Of course, they were not always simple spotted cubes. Some were elongated or octagonal or with as many as fourteen flat surfaces. But all the surfaces had their different values and were counted, like dice.

It is almost impossible to trace clearly the development of dice as distinguished from knucklebones. In the beginning, dice had anywhere from six to twenty flat sides of different values, and knucklebones had only four. Ancient writers confused the two games, and rarely agreed on the origin of either. It is certain, however, that both were played in times before written records were kept.

Sophocles tells us that a Greek invented the game of dice, and taught it to his countrymen during the seige of Troy. Herodotus, the so-called "Father of History," says the Lydians invented knucklebones, dice and all other games except chess. Then, too, dicing is credited with being an old Indian game.

Early examples can be found in the Smithsonian Institute. Dice similar to those used today have been used from earliest times, being found among ancient relics in Egypt, the Mediterranean and the Far East. Dice were pretty crude in the beginning.

No matter who started it, we know that dicing was a popular form of amusement even in ancient times. In Greece, the upper classes especially played the game as part of their drinking banquets. During the luxurious days of the empire, the Romans were passionate gamblers, casting their dice of crystal inlaid with gold from dice-beakers of carved ivory. Among the gamblers of the day were such big names as Augustus, Mark Antony and Nero.

Even then, there were those who wrote books on dicing, built special rooms in their palaces for it, sat up all night playing it, and those who cheated at it. Society soon took to the game, much as ours did with "Monopoly" and "Canasta" years back. Professional gamblers were common. Loaded dice came into being. Some are preserved in museums and private homes which became the resorts of gamblers. Special laws followed naturally, such as a person who allowed gambling in his home could not bring suit against another even if cheated.

Next the barbarians discovered the game of dice, possibly taught to them by their Roman conquerors. They loved it so much that, after losing their material possessions, they would gamble their personal freedom. During the Middle Ages, both knights and their ladies played dice. In France, dicing schools and clubs were formed, despite the legislation which tried to abolish the game. Soon India, the Far East, and a good part of the entire world held dicing in common.

Today dice are the crucial part of many games. An understanding of some of the history of dice just makes the games a lot more interesting!
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