Roman gambling in MUHBA

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

MUHBA (Museu d’Història de Barcelona) is one of the most interesting museums in Barcelona. Located in Plaça del Rei, it involves a journey through an area stretching over 4000 m2 under the actual square which reveal the Roman’s ruban structure of the city. The remains allow the visitor to take a look at the commercial life of the city and its craft production centres and the everyday life of Barcelona’s first Christian citizens.

The main focus of the exhibition is the Roman ruins through which you can explore the life of the citizens of the former Barcino. There is a lot of information about Roman life and… of course, gambling was very important for our ancestors. For example, look at these bone dice (1st-3rd centuries) and terra sigillata globets (1st-2nd c.) found in the ruins! One of them is a weighing one for the most cheating players!

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Although gambling was prohibited by law, Romans played a lot and traps were so common among them. When the lusoria tabula was not available, it was improvised by stripes on the ground or on stones, as we can see in this board from the 1st-4th c.:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

There also are improvised boards graved on ceramics:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

This latrunculus was also found in the ruins (1st-4th c.):

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The latrunculus was a very popular game derived from the Greek Petteia to which Homer quotes in his works. Varro (1st c. BC) wa sthe first Roman author who mentions this game.

Another popular game was the traditional coin flopping (navia aut caput) which was played with these coins:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Finally, I must talk about the tali (knucklebones) of the first photography. They probably were the most popular game in the Roman Empire and we have a lot of witnesses of their use until the 19th century. For example, you can notice the knucklebones in this 18th century painting:

Girl playing knucklebones. Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (1734)

Location: MUHBA in Barcelona (map)

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