No Dice: Murder, Starvation, and Games in Ancient Greece

Schol. D ad Il. 12.1 [see Apollodorus 3.13.8]

“Menoitios’ son Patroklos grew up in Opos in Locris but was exiled for an involuntary mistake. For he killed a child his age, the son of the memorable Amphidamas Kleisonumos, or, as some say, Aianes, because he was angry over dice. He went to Phthia in exile for this crime and got to know Achilles there because of his kindship with Peleus. They cemented a deep friendship with one another before they went on the expedition against Troy. This story is from Hellanicus.”

SCHOL. A HOM. Il. Μ 1: Μενοιτίου ἄλκιμος υἱός] Πάτροκλος ὁ Μενοιτίου
τρεφόμενος ἐν ᾿Οποῦντι τῆς Λοκρίδος περιέπεσεν ἀκουσίωι πταίσματι· παῖδα γὰρ
ἡλικιώτην ᾿Αμφιδάμαντος οὐκ ἀσήμου Κλ<ε>ισώνυμον, ἢ ὥς τινες Αἰάν<ην>, περὶ
ἀστραγάλων ὀργισθεὶς ἀπέκτεινεν· ἐπὶ τούτωι δὲ φυγὼν εἰς Φθίαν ἀφίκετο, κἀκεῖ
κατὰ συγγένειαν Πηλέως ᾿Αχιλλεῖ συνῆν. φιλίαν δὲ ὑπερβάλλουσαν πρὸς ἀλλήλους διαφυλάξαντες ὁμοῦ ἐπὶ ῎Ιλιον ἐστράτευσαν. ἡ ἱστορία παρὰ ῾Ελλανίκωι.

 

Patroklos tells the story himself at Il. 23.83-92

“Don’t inter your bones apart from mine, Achilles,
We were raised together in your home once
Menoitios sent me from Opos when I was small
To your home because of a terrible man-slaying.
There was that day when I killed the child of Amphidamas,
Not willingly because I was a child enraged over dice.
There the horseman Peleus received me into his home
And he raised me kindly and named me your companion.
So now let a single container, a golden amphora
Contain both our bones, the one your mother has given you.”

μὴ ἐμὰ σῶν ἀπάνευθε τιθήμεναι ὀστέ’ ᾿Αχιλλεῦ,
ἀλλ’ ὁμοῦ ὡς ἐτράφημεν ἐν ὑμετέροισι δόμοισιν,
εὖτέ με τυτθὸν ἐόντα Μενοίτιος ἐξ ᾿Οπόεντος
ἤγαγεν ὑμέτερον δ’ ἀνδροκτασίης ὕπο λυγρῆς,
ἤματι τῷ ὅτε παῖδα κατέκτανον ᾿Αμφιδάμαντος
νήπιος οὐκ ἐθέλων ἀμφ’ ἀστραγάλοισι χολωθείς·
ἔνθά με δεξάμενος ἐν δώμασιν ἱππότα Πηλεὺς
ἔτραφέ τ’ ἐνδυκέως καὶ σὸν θεράποντ’ ὀνόμηνεν·
ὣς δὲ καὶ ὀστέα νῶϊν ὁμὴ σορὸς ἀμφικαλύπτοι
χρύσεος ἀμφιφορεύς, τόν τοι πόρε πότνια μήτηρ.

 

Herodotus 1.94

“During the reign of Manes’ son, a massive food shortage struck all of Lydia. The Lydians endured this living as they could, but after a while, when it did not stop, they sought cures, and different men devised different solutions. At that time they invented the ideas of dice, and knucklebones, and ball, and every other kind of game except for draughts. For the Lydians do not claim the invention of these games. They invented the games they did for the famine. They played their games on alternate days when they could not seek food and on others they stopped their games and ate. They lived this way for eighteen years.”

᾿Επὶ ῎Ατυος τοῦ Μάνεω βασιλέος σιτοδείην ἰσχυρὴν ἀνὰ τὴν Λυδίην πᾶσαν γενέσθαι· καὶ τοὺς Λυδοὺς τέως μὲν διάγειν λιπαρέοντας, μετὰ δέ, ὡς οὐ παύεσθαι, ἄκεα δίζησθαι, ἄλλον δὲ ἄλλο ἐπιμηχανᾶσθαι αὐτῶν. ᾿Εξευρεθῆναι δὴ ὦν τότε καὶ τῶν κύβων καὶ τῶν ἀστραγάλων καὶ τῆς σφαίρης καὶ τῶν ἀλλέων πασέων παιγνιέων τὰ εἴδεα, πλὴν πεσσῶν· τούτων γὰρ ὦν τὴν ἐξεύρεσιν οὐκ οἰκηιοῦνται Λυδοί. Ποιέειν δὲ ὧδε πρὸς τὸν λιμὸν ἐξευρόντας· · τὴν μὲν ἑτέρην τῶν ἡμερέων παίζειν πᾶσαν, ἵνα δὴ μὴ ζητέοιεν σιτία, τὴν δὲ ἑτέρην σιτέεσθαι παυομένους τῶν παιγνιέων. Τοιούτῳ τρόπῳ διάγειν ἐπ’ ἔτεα δυῶν δέοντα εἴκοσι.

dice

4 thoughts on “No Dice: Murder, Starvation, and Games in Ancient Greece

  1. It all has to do with number of sides I guess. Hard to count number of sides on knucklebones, since they are just pieces of joint bones or something?

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