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ἀστράγαλος). A die used in gambling. The name of a bone in the hind-leg of cloven-footed animals which articulates with the tibia and helps to form the ankle-joint. In the language of anatomists it is still called astragalus; the English name is sometimes “huckle-bone,” but more commonly “knuckle-bone.” The astragali of sheep and goats, from their peculiar squareness and smoothness, have been used as playthings from the earliest times, and have often been found in Greek and Roman tombs, both natural and imitated in ivory, bronze, glass, and agate (Propert. iii. 24, 13; Mart.xiv. 14). They were used to play with, prin

Girl Playing with Tali. (Herculanean painting.)

cipally by women and children (Alcib. 2), occasionally by old men (de Sen. 16.58).

To play at this game was sometimes called πεντελιθίζειν, because five bones or other objects of a similar kind were employed (Fr. 33M.); and this number is retained among ourselves. This game was entirely one of skill; and in ancient no less than in modern times it consisted not merely in catching the five bones on the back of the hand, as shown in the woodcut, but in a great variety of exercises requiring quickness, agility, and accuracy of sight.

The name was also given to dice (cf. our slang term “the bones”) for playing games of chance (see Alea). The length was greater than the breadth, so that they had four long sides and two pointed ends, one of them called κεραία, the other without a name. Of the four long sides, which alone were marked, two were broader, the others narrower. One of the broad sides was convex (πρηνής or πρανής, the other concave (ὑπτία); while of the narrow sides one was flat and called χῖον, the other indented. This was called κῷον, and, as

Roman Dicebox. (Rich.)

the rarest was also the luckiest throw, marked 6: the χῖον was marked 1, the broader sides 3 and 4, so that the numbers 2 and 5 were wanting. From the difference of their shapes they did not absolutely require to be marked, and sometimes the pips were dispensed with. It was the under side of the die, not the upper, that counted, as must be inferred from the fact of the narrowest side giving the highest throw (Marquardt, Privatl. 828).

The Greek and Latin names of the numbers were as follows:—1. Μονάς, εἷς, κύων, Χῖος: Unio, Volturius, canis; 3. Τριάς: Ternio; 4. Τετράς: Quaternio; 6. Ἑξάς, ἑξίτης, Κῷος: Senio.

As the bone is broader in one direction than in the other, it was said to fall upright or prone (ὀρθὸς πρηνής, rectus aut pronus), according as it rested on a narrow or a broad side.

Two persons played together at this game, using four bones, which they threw up into the air, or emptied out of a dice-box (φιμός, fritillus). The numbers on the four sides of the four bones admitted of thirty-five different combinations. The lowest throw of all was four aces. But the value of a throw (βόλος, iactus) was not in all cases the sum of the four numbers turned up. The highest in value was that called Venus, or iactus Venereus, in which the numbers cast up were all different (Mart.xiv. 14), the sum of them being only fourteen. It was by obtaining this throw that the master of revels (arbiter bibendi) was chosen at the drinking-bouts. See Becq de Fouquières, Les Jeux des Anciens, 325 foll., and the article Symposium. Cf. also Tessera.

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    • Martial, Epigrammata, 14.14
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