The History and Development of Dice
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The History and Development of Dice

Every culture has their own version of a game of dice, whether you are in the Orient, or the Occident. There is something exciting about rolling out the dice and waiting to see what happens. Games based on luck have always had their share of popularity, and dice games are no exception. Dice games were being played in Asia before recorded historical times. Archeological expeditions have led to the unearthing of dice pieces from ancient tombs believed to be part of the Harappan civilization. Ancient Indian texts such as the Rig Veda and Atharva Veda mention board dice games, indication of their existence in India since ancient times. Dice games are said to have originated in South East Asia, and there are indications that such games might indeed have an Indian origin. Dicing plays a significant role in the great Indian Epic Mahabharata, where the Pandavas played a game of dice against Kauravas to determine who will rule the land of Hastinapura. Gambling was done with knucklebones; the four sides of the bones displaying different values. The popular modern game of Sic Bo has its origins in the ancient Chinese game of Dai Siu, which was played with bones, stones, or even shells engraved with digits or dots. Traditional martial arts fighters in China played such games in between their practice breaks.

In Greece, gambling with dice was very popular with the upper classes and the nobility, and was a popular accompaniment to drinking parties or social events. Various dice games were also played with gusto in the Roman Empire and Romans are said to have been passionate gamblers, although it was considered a forbidden pleasure except during Saturnalia, a festival dedicated to the god Saturn. Horace, the great Roman poet considered dicing as one of the dangers that the youth were exposed to, making them greedy and idle instead of carrying out their responsibilities properly. However, professional gambling for money or material continued to rise in the Roman Empire, which led to the formulation of special laws to keep tabs on gamblers. Common public houses were the most popular gambling hot spots, although publicly or morally, gambling was never upheld. Middle Ages saw English knights enjoying games of dice and there is evidence to support the claim that dicing was practiced at dice schools. Even guilds of dicers were said to have existed during that time. In France during the 13th century, dice games were popular with ladies and gentlemen of the aristocracy, though there were strict legislations against the same. The German landsknechts had a reputation of being some of the most notorious dice gamblers in the 17th century.

Modern day dice games evolved out of the ancient games played out by various cultures. There have been various forms of dice used in the past, and the commonly seen cubical dice of today were also used in the past. Materials used to make the die were bones, shells, ivory, wood, metal, stone, etc. The use of plastic has been a more recent phenomenon. There is a slight difference between European style die, and Asian styled die of modern times in the arrangement of pips, or the dots. If a dice has s sides, the 1/s chance of getting a certain number on rolling that dice brings in an element of luck into games, which makes it a perfect tool for gambling games, such as craps, Sic Bo, and numerous other board games.
April 30, 2008, 8:43 am

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