Open Thread - Thurs 30 Nov 2023 - Ludus Latrunculorum
Hope everyone had a great holiday! I have not been in the mood to do much news/media reading in the last week so... how's about we learn about a game? One that proceeded, and perhaps in part gave birth, to chess?
Ludus latrunculorum was a very, very popular game amongst soldiers, and probably everyone else of the 'lower' classes, during the late Roman Republic and the Roman Empire. There is archaeological evidence for the game (here's a fairly recent find of a game board), consisting of the game boards and the pieces. There is a written evidence of the game, basically mentioning it being played by soldiers and others. But sadly, no writer discussed the rules of the game or how it was played in any detail.
A Ludus Latrunculum game board found after it was reused as flooring at the Roman fort of Vindolanda in Northern England from Archaeology.org
The name means 'game of thieves' or 'game of brigands' or 'game of soldiers'. There were two players for each game, and the board looked similar to what we would call a chess board, or a draughts (checkers) board (see the image above of the game board found at Vindolanda for example). It was a strategy game. Each player would try to surround the game pieces of the opposing player and capture them. It is not known for sure if there was a more flexible and valuable leader piece, a duke or general. The game might have been played without the leader piece as well. Perhaps both things were true. It's not known how the pieces were moved and what constituted a capture, but people have made reconstructions with various rules - see for example here and here, and they play those games even now!
Here's a video about playing the game:
So, Enjoy playing whatever games you like, and thanks for reading. Here's the open thread - and remember, everything is interesting if you dive deep enough, so tell us about where you're diving!