Sunday, 5 October 2014

In the strangest places

I have recently been reading Mary Beard's rather brilliant book Pompeii and, in chapter 8, entitled 'Fun and Games' came cross the following:

"Roman board games, like our own, came in many different varieties, with different titles, 'Little Robbers' or, perhaps, 'Little Soldiers' (latrunculi) was one of the favourites, and was certainly played at Pompeii; for one election poster offers a candidate the support - unwanted maybe - of the 'latrunculi players'. Another which is often mentioned in Roman literature was called 'Twelve Writings' (duodecim scripta). No rulebook survives for any of these games, and there have been all kinds of scholarly attempts to reconstruct the play from casual references. Latrunculi, for example, may have involved trying to blockade or hem in your opponent's pieces in a way somewhat reminiscent of modern draughts. But most of them, as now, followed the same basic principle: a dice throw allowed the player to move his counter or counters on the board, or towards the winning goal; the sheer chance of the fall of the dice was the crucial element in success, but varying amounts of skill could no doubt be deployed in the movement of the pieces. There was certainly enough skill involved for the emperor Claudius to write a book (sadly lost) on the art of alea, a generic term for such dice games."
Am I the only one who thinks the emperor Claudius may have written a book about wargaming?