The Greek 20 Sided Dice

gambling-2In ancient Greece, board games where very popular, especially among the philosophers and their pupils. Plato once said “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation”.

the Acropolis of Athens ancient Greeks used to play board games. They used to roll the dice and play in the Parthenon, the great temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, protector of the city.

Ancient Greeks played Board games very similar to our checkers or chess, with game boards engraved on the floor.

Homer and other ancient texts we can find out that gambling games have been used widely in ancient Greece. Dice games, head and tails, and other games based on ‘luck’ have always been played by different groups.  In ancient Greece gamblers had the support of a couple of Gods – Hermes and Pan. Even the Gods were said to have played a game or two – in Greek mythology, Zeus, Hades and Poseidon played ‘throw the dice’ in order to split the Universe between them.

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The amazing collection at the The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a wonderful assortment of dice you can view online. One of the most amazing item in the collection is a single  twenty-sided dice.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which includes its Main Building on Fifth Avenue and The Cloisters museum and gardens in northern Manhattan, dates back to 1866.  This twenty-sided dice dates back to 2nd century B.C.–4th century A.D.

It was found in Egypt. I wonder if Cleopatra VII used this dice?  We know Antony and Cleopatra VII were playing a cynical game of politics did they play games using twenty sided dice. I hope so.

Twenty-sided die with faces inscribed with Greek letters

10.130.1159Period: Ptolemaic Period–Roman Period
Date: 2nd century B.C.–4th century A.D.
Geography: From Egypt
Medium: Faience
Dimensions: Height: 4.5 x L: 4.9 x W: 4.7 cm (1 3/4 x 1 15/16 x 1 7/8 in.)
Credit Line: Gift of Helen Miller Gould, 1910
Accession Number: 10.130.1159

This 20 sided dice is only available to view online.