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Gambling in Ancient Civilizations: How It All Began

Gambling in Ancient Civilizations: How It All Began


Gambling is one of the most ancient and popular activities, and it is still popular today. Gambling is the act of wagering or staking something of value on the outcome of a game, a contest, or an uncertain event whose conclusion may be determined by chance or accident or may have an unexpected consequence due to the bettor’s mistake. Whether we win or lose at casinos or online gambling sites, we are filled with excitement and motivation. Online casinos, table games, lottery, poker, and bingo are just a few of the things that come to mind when we hear the word gambling. Nowadays, various online gambling games like True Blue online casino, free pokies, and free slots are also available. Have you ever wondered how humans began gambling and how games evolved?

Ancient civilizations have been carving and shaping things into dice from diverse natural materials such as wood, pebbles, and bone since the beginning of time. Animal hooves have been carved onto dice in the past, and archaeologists believe they were employed in traditional fortune-telling and divination practices. The word ‘dike’ comes from the Greek word ‘dikes, which means ‘to toss.’

Many ancient societies, including Ancient Egypt, Greece, and China, included gambling as a part of their daily lives. These are some of the most influential civilizations in the development of ancient gambling and its many manifestations. Tossing a double six is considered auspicious since it was formerly known as the ‘throw of Aphrodite,’ which meant victory thousands of years ago. In this article, we will discuss gambling in the following regions:

  • Egypt 
  • Greece
  • Ancient China
  • Ancient Rome
  • Ancient India

Gambling in Ancient Egypt

The rules of the game were simple and straightforward, including only sticks and stones. When these were tossed to the ground and landed in a specific pattern, it determined whether you would win or lose. Although little is known about gambling in Ancient Egypt, it is thought that they were among the first to utilize a four-sided Astragali, also known as knucklebones, in their games. Animal bones were used as dice to make these knucklebones.

These knucklebones were initially utilized for communicating with the gods by ancient Egyptians. Whatever pattern these bones create when hurled, the Egyptians considered that such patterns reflected the gods’ response. Eventually, different games emerged, including the Senet, the oldest form of a board game, and Asseb, another game. The games are said to have evolved throughout time, incorporating additional items and new patterns.

Gambling in Ancient Greece

Gambling in ancient Greece is supposed to have originated at the dawn of history, when the gods Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon went out to divide up sections of the cosmos, according to Greek mythology. When the last bet was completed, and the results were revealed, Zeus won the heavens, Poseidon got the seas, and Hades pulled the short end of the stick, receiving the underworld.

Homer’s writings provide us with information on gambling in Ancient Greece. It is supposed to have originated with dice and tossing money, according to numerous Greek texts and tales. It’s worth noting that the Greek word ‘dike’ means ‘justice,’ and it comes from the verb ‘to throw.’ Heads and Tails was one of Ancient Greece’s most popular gambling games, which began with shells and quickly progressed to money. The dice game was initially played with three or four clay cubes but was eventually modified to only two cubes, which we still use today. These dice were shaken and tossed into a cup, determining the game’s outcome.

Pitch and Toss and Par Impar Ludere are two more games that originated in Greece. It’s a simple guessing game called Par Impar Ludere, in which one player holds a few objects in their hand, and the other player must estimate the correct amount of items they are holding. Gambling is also said to have had a significant impact on the early Olympics in Ancient Greece. Gambling was considered a dishonorable act in Ancient Greece, regardless of how deeply people were involved.

Gambling in Ancient China

Gambling is said to have emerged in Ancient China about 2300 BC, under the Xia era. Ancient China inspired the most popular games today, from developing cards to establishing Keno and shuffling. They’re also responsible for some of our favorite table games, such as free pokies, poker, blackjack, and other Chinese games like Yue Har Hai, Wei-Qi, and the ever-popular Mahjong. China is the Far East’s gambling center, and it’s easy to see why.

Mainland China has banned gambling, despite the fact that they were once the gambling center of the world. People who want to gamble at casinos may now do so in the Macau and Hong Kong regions.

Gambling in Ancient Rome

Rome has long been known for its gambling culture and history, notably during the time of the legendary Emperor Augustus, who is thought to have had a serious gambling problem. Despite the fact that it was legally forbidden under the Roman Empire, a celebration known as ‘Saturnalia’ (in honor of the god Saturn) was celebrated every year, allowing men and women of all classes to eat, drink, and play games for a week.

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The major attraction of this celebration was the role reversal between masters and slaves, which allowed the former to eat and wager at the same table as the masters, with the slaves frequently being served by the masters themselves. Dice and nuts, and money were frequently utilized as stakes in the games conducted at this yearly event.

Gambling in Ancient India

Certain types of chance games are mentioned in the Ramayana (one of two great Sanskrit epics of ancient India), which are thought to date back to 7300 BC. It refers to gambling boards, which some people mistake for chess, as well as dice gaming. The phrase “to lose one’s shirt,” which means “to lose money,” originated from ancient India. Trees stripped of their fruit are compared to defeated gamblers who have lost their clothing and jewelry in a wager in ancient Sanskrit literature.

While the Ramayana lightly mentions gambling and does not advocate it in any way, the Mahabharata (the second epic) offers a different narrative. Shakuni, the primary antagonist, sets up a dice game against King Yudhishthira, whom he has defrauded of all his riches and realm. When another adversary, Duryodhana, claimed that there was no room in the empire for two crown princes, another dice tournament was staged, which resulted in the royal family’s exile.

As early as 300 BC, Buddhist writings mention Indians playing with nuts as dice. Indians acquired a passion for gambling on animals in addition to dice. Ram and cockfights were popular at first, followed by more sophisticated horse racing later on.