Romanorum -- Roman Games: When we think of Roman games,
we often think of gladiators, wild animals, Christians and other "undesirables"
being slaughtered, and other such edifying stuff. All of that was popular,
but Romans had other things to do in their spare time too -- and there
was lots of spare time: 244 holidays per year at the height of the empire.
As might be expected, swimming was popular at the beaches and the baths.
Less well known was the Roman love for board games and ball games. Board
games were played everywhere, but there were specially laid out courts
called "sphaeristerii" for playing ball. Ball playing by kids in the streets
was also common, but it could be dangerous: Cicero describes a court case
concerning a barber's hand being struck by a soccer ball. That would not
have been so bad if the barber had not been shaving a customer. The customer
did not survive.
In some cases the rules for board or ball games were
written down in durable form and have been found, so we know how to play
them. Sometimes the rules are inferred from descriptions, illustrations,
and artifacts. Just about everything we know about Roman board games can
be found at http://www.personal.psu.edu/users/w/x/wxk116/roma/rbgames.html.
Information about Roman ball games is at http://www.personal.psu.edu/users/w/x/wxk116/romeball.html.
If you can't live without the gladiatorial stuff, it,
along with info on other Roman and non-roman ancient games, can be found