One thought on “Blogosphere ~ Rota: “An Old Roman Game”

  1. Although we don’t exactly know how this type of game was played (as the article states) it’s believed that it was a tic-tac-toe type of game.
    This shows that they are correct in the game piece’s placement.
    There is also one similar with more shallower holes on the floor of the Basilica Julia in the Roman Forum.

    But the over-all majority of these games are just an etched circle with the 4 lines dividing it.

    The most famous and photographed game is this one on the steps of the Basilica Julia in the Roman Forum.
    But his is the only circle game where I have ever seen a word within it. ORACVLO (ORACLE).

    I’ve looked very closely at that etched gameboard and although not complete (meaning cut-up like a pizza in eight sections) it was still playable.

    I’ve noticed that in lieu of the 4 lines X & + within the O that divides other games in does have has 4 of the 8 intersecting lines marked by 1inch lines in the perimeter )- -(.
    The others likely missing in the lost section or where cracks have opened.

    I noticed roughly in the exact center of this circle there is a small (droplet) piece of metal fused into the step.
    I wet my finger to shine it up and my 1st thought was brass, later possibly copper or bronze (IIRC it did have a slight green tarnish like brass gets).

    I *closely* searched all of the exposed steps of the Basilica Julia (on this trip & others) and haven’t found any other small pieces of fused metal on them.

    I was intrigued that *only* within this small round game board a piece of fused metal was found in 100’s of meter’s of steps.

    I later researched that ~350AD and later small and thin brass commemorative tokens were produced.
    And that these contorniates likely ended up being used as game pieces (vs bone chips, colored glass, stones, etc) for the Tabulae Lusoriae like in the Basilica Julia in the Roman Forum.

    Larger and heavier copper coins in the nearby Basilica Emilia’s 410AD Fire fused into the marble floor.

    I assume a much smaller and thinner brass token would likely just melt and form into a tiny round ball if exposed to intense heat?

    If so, it’s odd that a fused melted droplet just happens to be in the center of this game where a game piece would be?

    Again if so, it’s odd that a player would leave this token as it is not likely the Basilica just suddenly burst into flames and being outside on the steps he had to run for his life?
    Or he forgot the token in the crowded Roman Forum in plain sight right alongside the Via were it lay untouched and hours later there was a fire?

    So it seems very possible that a token used in that game was melted by a fire in the Basilica Julia post 350AD.

    Now for a major ‘What If’:-) if that is true.

    I can think of 1 event that possibly would have caused the fire and a person to leave his tokens behind.

    August 24, 410AD Alaric and his Visigoths breach the Gate and beeline towards the Roman Forum (for the major loot in the area).

    An event like armed screaming Visigoths streaming into the Forum might possibly distract a game player enough into leaving his worthless tokens behind:-).
    And later the Basilica Julia and the city are put to the torch.

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