The Gambling Culture In Rome

Games of chance are as old as the cultures that have tried again and again to ban it. Much like pkv games in Indonesia, it is not surprising that the first literary mentions of games of chance were usually made in connection with their prohibition. In Roman ancient times it was not about the game itself, but about the serious financial or personal consequences for the players. It was only with Christianity that the idea of ​​banning games per se came up.

Roman Gambling

We know from ancient Greece that the players gathered in special places to indulge their passion. Two of these have been passed down: the temple of Athena Skira and in Corinth at the Pirene fountain. The word skirapheion (place for commercial gambling) was even derived from the former. Plutarch found gambling and philosophy incompatible so that it was considered improper for philosophers to devote themselves to them.

In Rome there was since the 3rd century BC. a lex alea (to) ria (dice law), two centuries later several such bans, which were probably dedicated to different games. The common citizen was punished by four times his stake, and gambling debts were considered debts of honor (ie they were not enforceable). For higher-ranking people, however, harder bandages may have been given, up to and including exile.

The aediles were responsible for monitoring the ban. A rigorous shouting of the authorities against the widespread gambling did not take place. Raids were rare and more likely to have taken place in connection with the violation of other laws – according to the motto if you are already there …

But Rome wouldn’t be Rome if there was a small loophole that allowed gambling. This was the festival of Saturnalia in December. During a week everyone could throw, puzzles and bet as much as he liked and his wallet allowed.

The ancient writers clearly moved games of chance into the realm of crime. They took place in narrow, poorly-lit pubs. But the game fever had spread to all social classes. Some emperors like Augustus, Gaius, Claudius, Nero, Vitellius, Domitianus, Lucius Verus, or Didius Iulianus were passionate players.

In his Ars amatoria, Ovid recommends that every girl be familiar with the art of gambling. Games of chance were not a male domain and were an ideal starting point for amorous adventures. The modern belief “bad luck in love – luck in the game” did not apply in antiquity. Rather, it was believed that the future love event was prophesied in the dice. When the writer Properz once threw the dice for foreplay with two easy girls and scored only the worst throws, he could foresee something bad – and in fact, his girlfriend was immediately in the door …

In the 7th century, BC competitions in drinking wine cups were organized in Greece. This “fighting drinking” persisted over the centuries and was of course also adopted by the Romans, who combined it with games of chance. The rolled number of wine was to be cupped …

Roman legislation is good for another curiosity. The ban only affected the players. However, it was allowed to run a bar where gambling took place. However, the landlord was classified as a susceptor (a gaming company) and enjoyed reduced legal protection in the event of problems with players. It is controversial whether there were already chips at the stage of commercial “gambling dens”. Dug up tokens made of lead could have served either as tokens or as deposit tokens to claim winnings.