A BRIEF HISTORY OF BACKGAMMON
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.
The displacement of the Roman legions over a vast territory allowed the displacement, consequently, of the ancestor of Backgammon. The fall of the empire, however, also led to a decline of the tabula.
It was revived during the period of the Crusades and, despite efforts to ban it as gambling by the Church, Backgammon spread widely in the Middle Ages. he was also depicted in a miniature of the 13th century Carmina Burana.
To obtain an organic drafting of the rules, however, it was necessary to wait until 1743, with a short treatise by Edmond Hoyle, the first theorist of card games.
Some scholars trace the cycles of human life in the Backgamon: the black and white pawns would be the symbol of the alternation between day and night; the number of points would mean the months of the year, the 30 pawns the days of the month, the roll of the dice, the revolution of the celestial spheres.
The mix of skill and luck present in the game could remind us of human existence: you cannot predict the outcome of a game just as you cannot plan for success in life. Fate and ingenuity have the same weight and we must know how to exploit luck in order to defeat the opponent of the moment. Optimize a good hand and reduce the damage of bad ones.