), 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 (Aristot. Hist.
2.1.34). In the language of anatomists it is still called
the English name is sometimes
“hucklebone,” 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. 3.24,
13; Mart. 14.14
; Ficoroni, Tav.
2). Those of the antelope (δορκάδειοι
sought as objects of elegance and curiosity (Theophr. Char.
5; Athen. 5.193
f). They were used to play with,
principally by women and children (Plut. Alc.
), occasionally by old men (Cic. de
16.58). A painting by Alexander of Athens, found at Resina,
represents two women occupied with this game. One of them, having thrown the
bones upwards into the air, has caught three of them on the back of her hand
i. tav. 1). See the following woodcut, and
compare the account of the
Tali. (From a painting at Herculaneum.)
game in Pollux (9.99). Polygnotus executed a similar work at
Delphi, representing the two daughters of Pandarus thus employed (παιζούσας ἀστραγάλοις,
). But a much more celebrated
production was the group of two naked boys, executed in bronze by
Polycletus, and called the Astragalizontes
(Plin. Nat. 34.55
). A fractured
marble group of the same kind, preserved in the British Museum, exhibits one
of the twe boys in the act of biting the arm of his playfellow, so as to
present a lively illustration of the account in Homer of the fatal quarrel
of Patroclus (Il. 23.87
). To play at this game was sometimes called
because five bones or
other objects of a similar kind were employed (Pollux, l.c.;
33 M.); 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
The name was also given to dice for playing games of chance [ALEA
]; et first, no doubt, merely
the natural bones marked with pips, afterwards of a conventional shape
reproducing the peculiarities of the knuckle-bone. 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 (πρηνὴς
), the other concave (ὑπτία
); while of the narrow sides one was flat
and called χῖον,
the other indented. This
was called κῷον,
and as 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 (Poll. 9.99,
τὸ δὲ σχῆμα τοῖς κατὰ τὸν ἀστράγαλον
πτώματος ἀριθμοῦ δόξαν εῖχεν
). 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,
The Greek and Latin names of the numbers were as follows (Pollux, l.c.;
Hom. Il. 23.88
; Suet. Aug. 71
; Mart. 13.1
):--1. Μονάς, εἷς,
1.35, 242); 2.
Unio, Volturius, canis
(Propert. v. (iv.) 8,
45; Ovid, A. A.
2.473); 3. Τριάς:
As the bone is broader in one direction than in the other, it was said to
fall upright or prone (ὀρθὼς ἢ πρηνής,
rectus aut pronus
), according as it rested on a
narrow or a broad side (Plut. Quaest. Sympos.
5.6, p. 680 a;
Cic. de Fin.
Two persons played together at this game, using four bones, which they threw
up into the air, or emptied out of a dice-box [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 (jacit volturios quatuor,
2.3, 78). But the value of a throw (βόλος,
) was not in all cases the sum of the
four numbers turned up. The highest in value was that called Venus,
5.2, 55; Cic. de Div. 2.5. 9
§ 121; Propert, Suet. ll. cc.
), in which
the numbers cast up were all different (Mart.
), the sum of them being only fourteen. It was by obtaining this
throw that [p. 2.760]
the king of the feast was appointed
among the Romans (Hor. Carm. 1.4.18
25) [SYMFOSIUM], and hence it was called Basilicus
Certain other throws were called by particular names, taken from gods,
illustrious men and women, and heroes. Thus the throw, consisting of two
aces and two trays, making eight, was denominated Stesichorus.
A multitude of these names of throws are given
by Pollux (7.204 ff.), who quotes the following lines from the Κυβευταὶ
of Eubulus (fr.
57 M.):-- Κεντρωτός, ἱερός, ἅρμ̓
κήρυνος, εὐδαίμων, κυνωτός, ἅρτια,
Λάκωνες, ἀντίτευχος, Ἀργεῖος, δάκνων,
Τιμόκριτος, ἐλλείπων, πυαλίτης, ἐπίθετος,
σψάλλων, ἀγυρτής, οἳστρος, ἀνακάμπτων, δορεύς,
Λάμπων, κύκλωπες, ὲπιψέρων, Σάλων,
The number of names far exceeds that of possible throws, so that some must
have been identical. When the object was simply to throw the highest
numbers, the game was called πλειστοβολίνδα
(Pollux, 9.117). Before a person threw the tali, he often invoked either a
god or his mistress (Plaut. Capt.
2.3, 77-79). These bones, marked and thrown as above
described, were also used in divination (Suet. Tib.
For the cubical die marked on all six sides, see TESSERA
23.87, p. 1397; Becq de Fouquières, Jeux des
ed. 2, pp. 325-356; Marquardt, Privatl.