The history of the dice

The oldest dice in the world were found in the southeast of what is now called Iran. It was part of a backgammon game (that is a board game). Backgammon was formerly played by very important people. The estimated age is 5,000 years! In ancient stories from India (about 1,500-3,000 years ago) dice are mentioned. We also know the Greeks and Romans liked to play dice.

Dice are the oldest game elements that exist. Their exact origin is unknown, but they have a long and rich history. Sophocles (496 – 406 BC), the Greek poet and actor, claimed that dice were invented by the Greek Palamedes during the siege of Troye to kill the time for the soldiers. Herodotus (around 484 BC), historian and knowledge of Sophocles, said precisely that the Lydians of Asia Minor (the area that today is Turkey) But actually date dice far back then that. There are Egyptian tombs, dating back to 2000 BC, found containing dice. But there are also regular excavations, at various large civilizations around the world, where dice are found that are dated up to 6000 BC.

old dice from egyptold dice found in Egypt

Much at stake

Dice was a very serious activity and often there was also a lot at stake. That is how the Roman soldiers dabbed for Jesus’ clothes after they crucified him. The Roman soldiers also often found playing dice more important than guard walks! In difficult choices, the Romans gladly put the faith in the hands of the dice. The word ‘dice’ comes from the game ‘dice’. Dice is derived from the French word ‘doble’, which means double. A famous saying of Julius Caesar is “Alea iacta est”. This means “once the dice are thrown, there is no way back”.

Eyes on all sides

A dice (also called bones, craps or shakers) is usually a version of a cube-shaped object with on each of the sides one of the eye numbers 1 to 6. the sum of the eyes on opposing sides is always seven, so 1 and 6, 5 and 2, 4 and 3. The word dice refers to the old game of dice. By throwing the dice, one of the sides will more or less accidentally come up. The number of eyes on this side is considered as the outcome of the throw. The dice thus functions as a random generator that produces the numbers 1 to 6 with equal chances of 1/6.

Nowadays there are also dice with different numbers of numbered sides; these are usually regular polyhedra or bodies based thereon. There are also variants of the cube-shaped die with other images on the sides, depending on the desired application.

A dice should be shaped so that each side has an equal chance to come “up”. Such a dice is called ‘pure’. In reality, each dice will have some irregularities, so a pure dice actually does not exist.

A modern die has rounded corners and sides, making the die roll better and it is less predictable how the dice will come to rest. The shape of a die must be such that each surface has the same chance to come up. This is not easy to achieve with every number of surfaces.

Games with dice

There are many games where dice are used. For example family games like Monopoly, Go and BackGammon. And of course we also know the casino games where dice are used. The most famous game being craps of course.