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Cottăbus

κότταβος). A Greek game very popular at drinking-bouts. The player lay on a couch, and in that position tried to throw a few drops of wine, in as high a curve as possible, at a mark, without spilling any of the wine. The mark was called κοτταβεῖον, and was a bronze goblet or saucer (πλάστιγξ) on the end of an upright rod (ῥάβδος); and it was a point to make a noise when hitting it. On the κοτταβεῖον was fastened a little image or a bust of Hermes, which was called μάνης, and which the player had to hit first with the wine. The wine was supposed to make a sound (λάταξ) both in hitting the figure and in falling afterwards into the saucer. This, of course, greatly increased the difficulty of the game.

Cottabus. (Vase from Corneto.)

There was another form of the game, in which the point was to make the wine hit the saucer while floating in a large vessel of water and sink it. The game was played in a chamber made for the purpose. The form of the room was circular, to give every player an equal chance of hitting the mark, which was placed in the centre. The victor generally received a prize agreed upon beforehand. The players also used the game to discover their chances of success in love. They uttered the name of their beloved while throwing the wine. A successful throw gave a good omen, an unsuccessful one a bad omen. A good player leaned upon his left elbow, remained quite quiet, and used only his right hand to throw with. The game came originally from Sicily, but became popular through the whole of Greece, and especially at Athens, where to play well was a mark of good breeding. It did not go out of fashion until the fourth century after Christ.

Vase-paintings representing the first form of the game exist in considerable numbers, one of them being reproduced in the preceding illustration. An apparatus for playing the cottabus was found some years ago in an Etruscan tomb at Perugia, where it is now preserved in the local museum. See Helbig, in the Mittheil. des Kaiserl. Deutsch. Archäol. Inst., Römische Abth., for 1886, i. pp. 222 foll. and 234 foll. Also Becker-Göll, Charikles, ii. p. 366, and the Annali dell' Inst., for 1868, pp. 217 foll.

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