The game of the “kings”.

Inv. No. NCE 117.

Rome, Capitoline Museums
(Musei capitolini)

In Roman society, table games were played upon portable boards called tabulae lusoriae (gaming tables, checker boards). The cheapest varieties were made of wood, whilst more prestigious boards were crafted in bronze, marble (like the ones in this exhibition), semiprecious stone and inlayed wood. Many tabulae lusoriae were etched into the floors of public buildings and are still visible today. The most common games were «filetto», «fossette game» (round holes), the game of twelve lines (duodecim scripta, backgammon), ludus latrunculorum (a game involving soldiers or mercenaries), a complicated war game similar to modern-day chess, and word games, such as this shown here called «Reges» (game «of the Kings»).

Conventionally defined as a gaming board for the game «Reges», named for the repetition of the word that occurs twice in the text. Scholars do not believe that any meaning should be given to these curious groups of letters, but maintain that REGOR and REGES are simply casual combinations. Found mostly in Rome, these tables all have the same words, whose meaning is incomprehensible. They are arranged in four rows and in two distinct fields, not always in the same order, such that the first line always has ten letters, the second and third have eight, and the fourth has seven. The script of the letters is always very elegant and the Capitoline example may be a model, since it presents a well-calculated sequence of letters in the columns: two E’s in the second, four G’s in the fourth, three R’s and one S in the last, and letters that alternate such as R and S in the fifth and G and E in the eighth.

(ńń) 2009. Photo: Olga Lyubimova (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Text: the inscription in the museum.

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Keywords: game of the kings board tabula lusoria tabulae lusoriae letters rows columns REGOR REGES Inv No NCE 117