History of gambling in Rome has its deep roots reaching a long time back. The archaeological sites in Greece dated to 7th Century B.C, unearthed the earliest cubical dice, used for the dice games. Greeks used astragali for their dice games, before the six-sided dice. Two types of the dice games were common- one that involved game boards and the others that required only the dice to be thrown with the highest rank throw producing a winning result.
Rome’s gambling history with architectural sculptural reliefs dating to 4th Century B.C. show many gambling episodes with men and women throwing the dice. One of the best known artwork related to dice portrays Greek heroes Ajax and Achilles playing dice during the Trojan War.
Games and contests involving animals and humans have always generated great enthusiasm in the past history of Rome. Associated heavy betting, one of the most popular beloved forms of gambling was- cockfighting, during 5th Century B.C. Olympic Games and other competitions like wrestling, boxing, running, disc throwing and others were other favorite betting sports in the gambling history of Rome.
Romans learned most of the games from Greeks and enjoyed playing the guessing games like them. Holding almonds, beans and other small objects concealed in the palm of the hand and requiring the number to be guessed was a much popular game. The other favorite game was to toss the coin and call “Head or Ship”, much like the modern toss of “Head or Tail”.
It was common to see the Roman soldiers regularly playing dice games during their campaigns and carrying heavy and bulky gaming tables into the war along with their military equipment. Numerous gaming boards, tables and dice were found in the ruins of Roman Empire. The dice were commonly made of bones, silver, bronze, stone, shells and ivory, as per the history of gambling in Rome.
It would not be incorrect to say that the Romans could not live without gambling. To fulfill their gambling needs, huge spectacles and competitions were held daily, like the gladiator contests, chariot races, animal fights and fights between animal and humans.
The Romans had the laws against gambling, but they were not seriously enforced. There was even a time when a law during the empire of Rome ordered every child to learn gambling and throwing the dice. The gambling history of Rome has some very interesting twists and tales to tell.