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Gambling in Ancient Greece, Rome, and Ancient China

| 30.3.22 |
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Gambling in Ancient Greece, Rome, and Ancient China

 When it comes to gambling you think of casino, baccarat, roulette, lottery or craps. But do you know when this gambling appeared? Some forms of gambling have been around for thousands of years, in the same form they are in modern times. Gambling with the Greeks Gambling has appealed to the Greeks since ancient times and it seems that modern humans have not forgotten the bad habits of the past. Who would have thought that poker was played more than 3,500 years ago in the Minoan civilization? The double six dice which is considered lucky has also been played for a long time. 

Thousands of years ago, getting a double six was called the 'Aphrodite throw. "If a person gets a double six when he rolls the dice, he wins," said John Black, quoted from the Ancient Origins page. In Homer's records and other ancient texts we can find out that gambling was widely played in ancient Greek civilization. Dice games, heads and tails and other games based on 'luck' are always played by different groups. There was even a special place where people who liked to gamble would go play. Just like modern day casinos, these places have a bad reputation. It is often considered embarrassing for someone to go there.
People would lose their luck in gambling, in exactly the same way we do today. But in ancient Greece, gamblers had the support of several gods - Hermes and Pan. 

Even the gods are said to have played a game or two. In Greek mythology, Zeus, Hades and Poseidon played 'roll the dice' to divide the universe between them. “Most of the ancient Greek writers and philosophers condemned gambling,” Black says. At some point gambling became like a plague which prompted officials to reduce the activity. Obviously whenever gambling exists, cheating goes hand in hand. Yes, it has even happened thousands of years ago. Checkers is a game called 'tilia' in ancient Greece and in Roman era it was called a 12 line game. Some of the drawings on pottery show the Greeks betting on animal contests (including chickens, birds, and dogs). Black added: "Many people even raise animals for that purpose." 

Heads and tails are also popular and are played with shells. Then during the Roman period with coins, as it is today. Dice is a popular ancient Greek game. The Greeks used three cubes made of clay. This game continues in the Roman era. However the number of dice was reduced to two and this form continues to this day. In ancient Rome, gambling was practiced between slaves and masters. “For a period of time it was popular even among Emperors,” Black added. In ancient China, Egypt and Islam, gambling was also popular. We can also find references in the Jewish Talmud and Buddhism. In all cases at some point it was regulated and severe penalties would befall the gamblers. 'The lottery' was a popular gambling practice in ancient Rome. 

There are even references in biblical texts that Roman guards cast lots for Jesus' clothing during the crucifixion. Gambling is used to settle disputes or reveal 'god' answers to questions.
In China, you will find a game of keno played with cards numbered 1 to 80 in a grid. You are allowed to circle a set of numbers and then a lottery will take place to identify the 'lucky' numbers. Is this game invented in modern times? Certainly not. Go back 2,000 years where this game was called 'white dove ticket'. White dove tickets may be played at gambling houses with the permission of the provincial governor, who will receive a percentage of the profits. Coincidentally, this game was invented by the Chinese in 2300 BC using tiles.

 In 900 AD the Chinese have invented card games decorated with human shapes. Black said that this game was then spread throughout Europe by the Mamalukes (followers of Islam). Europeans adapted the cards to represent the kings and queens we see in today's decks. The dice are 40,000 years old and the drawings in the cave provide evidence that gambling has been around for a very long time.


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