Sunday, December 11, 2011

Board or Table Games

Board or Table Games

Next time you sit down at a table to play a board game, you may want to thank the Romans for bringing this form or entertainment/mental stimulation to what is now the English-speaking world. The Latin first declension noun for table is mensa, but tabula, from which we get "table," is a Latin noun that was used, first, for "a small flat slab or piece," and later, for "a board, plank, table," according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, which says the usage we're most familiar with comes from about A.D. 1300.

The Classics-List mentioned an MSNBC article on the topic of the introduction of board games to Britain, Board games originated as a pastime for the elite, which is based on an article from Antiquity that requires an account or pay per view: "Roman rules? The introduction of board games to Britain and Ireland"
Mark A. Hall and Katherine Forsyth
Antiquity Volume: 85 Number: 330 Page: 1325-1338.

The MSNBC article says board games probably began in Egypt or the Fertile Crescent about 3500 B.C., with the oldest known being the Royal Game of Ur and another early one being Senet. Board games then spread around the Mediterranean, reaching Britain in the 1st century B.C., from Gaul. "[B]oard games followed on the coattails of the Roman conquest of Europe, …[but] came to reflect the cultural and social contexts of particular regions."

The MSNBC article says there were also ancient games in India and further east, but doesn't show a connection between them and the Fertile Crescent games.