To start with, this traditional board game, of which a new version will arrive by the end of June on our site, is known by other names around the world. In Italian we also use to call it Royal Table, but we also hear it called Tric Trac.
Its birth dates back to 4500 years ago, thanks to the discovery of the Royal Game of Ur in the tomb of a Sumerian king in ancient Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq. Other sources would like him to be even older and originally from Iran.
It certainly managed to spread to the West as well as to the East, thanks to the various migrations of peoples and tribes; of the original Backgammon began to create different variations, different ways of playing, depending on the geographical area. Some frescoes representing a playing field very similar to today's were also discovered in ancient Egypt, inside the tomb of none other than the legendary Tutankhamen.
Backgammon is also mentioned in the well-studied Odyssey, with the episode of suitors intent on playing with pawns in the outer atrium of Ulysses' palace. Try to take your old school textbook and have fun finding this passage.
A game consisting of a board and three dice won its place of honor even in ancient Rome; it was known as Ludus duodecim scriptorum ("game of the twelve lines"), which subsequently took the name, probably also undergoing modifications, of Alea ("dice") or Tabula ("table"). The game was to be widespread in all social classes. Suetonius, in his Lives of twelve Caesars, thus describes the maniacal interest that the emperor Claudius had for that game: «With great passion he played dice, on which art he even put out a book; and he used to play even while traveling, having the chariot and the board adjusted so that the game would not get messed up ».
Traces of this game are also found in Pompeii: the excavations brought to light the murals inside a tavern that depict the development of a game of tabula, which ended between mutual insults.