Ancient Roman Toys & Games

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We know what children played with in Ancient Rome because there are murals and floor tiles found in ancient Roman ruins that show children at play. Also burial sites more than 2000 years old have been uncovered which held the bodies of children surrounded by various toys they played with when they were alive.

The games and toys that the children of ancient Rome had were as varied as their imaginations. They played hunting, farming, selling things at a pretend market, dressing up and putting on little theatre plays to entertain themselves and their parents. They pretended to be royalty or actors and actresses and would make up situations for their characters.

All children regardless of their wealth had toys. The toys for the rich children were generally well made and colourful. For poor children the same toys were cheaply made and not painted. They played house with little clay statuettes of people and animals. Games were made up to mimic what the adults did, such as storekeepers, soldiers, medical men, officers, judges, field workers, etc.

Ancient Roman Toys

Common Toys

Children had hobbyhorses to pretend to gallop around the streets. They made little carts and hitched mice to them. Both boys and girls played with balls, kites, and hoops they rolled on the streets.  They also had bats, stilts, and knucklebones, which were like jacks of today.

The boys played war games with pretend swords made of wood. Some of the children would pretend to be the enemy and some were the conquering soldiers. Boys would play tag and practice wrestling like they saw when soldiers and gladiators performed in the Coliseum.

Girls had dolls they could dress up in swatches of material. The children of the rich had dolls of clay and some of wax with jointed limbs. Beds were made for the dolls from scraps of material and pieces of wood. The poor children had dolls made of rags or straw and sticks.

Boys Playing Ball Game

Board Games

One of the favourite board games of the Ancient Romans was called ‘rages’. The rules have been lost to time, but we know it was a word game that had rows of letters, perhaps an ancient version of the modern game of Scrabble.

Another board game that was popular with both adults and children was a game like our modern game of chess. It was called “latrunculi” (from the Latin word for servant or soldier). It was played on a board divided into squares.

Each player claimed a side and used round rocks with dabs of colour on them or coloured wax – each player claimed a colour. Each player also moved from one side to the other capturing the opponents “men”.

Another game was similar to our modern game of checkers played on a board. Poor children played the same games but if they didn’t have a board, they would mark out squares on the ground and pick up pieces of marble for one player’s pieces and find dark stones for the other player’s pieces.

Latrunculi

Questions:

  1. How do we know that children of Ancient Rome played with toys and played games?
  2. What did the boys of Ancient Rome play?
  3. What did the girls of Ancient Rome play with?
  4. What sort of things did children in Ancient Rome play with on the streets?
  5. Name three board games that were popular with children in Ancient Rome.

Answers:

  1. Murals and floor tiles have been discovered in ancient Roman ruins that depict children at play.
  2. Boys in Ancient Rome played soldier with wooden swords or wrestled pretending to be gladiators.
  3. Little girls of Ancient Rome played with dolls and played house.
  4. On the streets, children of Ancient Rome played ball, flew kites, rolled hoops, played tag, and rode hobbyhorses.
  5. Children of Ancient Rome played a word game similar to Scrabble and another board game that was like chess and checkers.

Ancient Rome

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