How are cubes made

The Latin saying “Alea iacta est!” (In English: “The dice has been thrown!”) Is probably one of the best-known Latin expressions on the subject of dice. The word alea does not mean the die itself, but the throw itself. The cube is called in Latin tesserae. There were also documents on which dice were thrown, so-called dice boards (alveus) and dice towers (terricula), which were supposed to prevent someone from cheating. The cube was thrown into the dice tower at the top and then fell out again at the bottom via a few “steps”.

The Romans didn't just play dice, but also board games, such as the mill game, which is still known today, and the so-called soldier game, which was a forerunner of today's checkers game. Another game of the Romans was the twelve-point game, which in turn was the old version of today's backgammon. However, the dice games in Rome enjoyed a bad reputation, at least if you start from the ancient authors, such as Cicero:


"To serve voluptuous, cheeky, unclean, shameless men, dice-mongers, drunks - that is the greatest misfortune, united with the greatest shame." (Phillip. 3, 35)

However, the dice from Dorsten-Holsterhausen show that the Roman board games also came to Germania. Presumably the Germanic soldiers learned these games there during their mercenary service in the Roman army, as playing was a popular pastime, especially among the soldiers. The Roman armies often camped in Dorsten-Holsterhausen during the occupation. Therefore, the soldier activity is an important factor that the game culture came to Germania. The only information about the fact that the Teutons also indulged in the parlor games is from the Roman historian Tacitus:


“Strangely enough, they pay homage to the game of dice with full sobriety, as if it were serious business. They are so obsessed with such a blind passion for gain and loss that, when they have gambled away everything else, they fought for their freedom and their own bodies with the final, decisive throw. "(Germania 24)

In contrast to the Romans, the Germanic peoples were rather stuck with the game of dice and viewed it less as a pleasure than as a serious matter.

The Germanic peoples only became interested in the board game later, in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. The game of dice was therefore long preferred, which may also be due to the fact that four-sided stick dice were used, a tradition that goes back to the Celtic Goes back in time and therefore the game of dice had been known for a long time in the areas also inhabited by the Teutons.

Play utensils were also found as gifts in Roman graves. Usually, however, you have only discovered one cube or token, or generally only a few per grave. Game boards, which are similar to the Roman game boards, were also discovered in the Germanic graves.

The game culture has been anchored in society for a very long time and is important for people then as it is now.


By Carolin Plesser, intern