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Dice Players in Antiquity

It is well-known that the Mishnah in Sanhedrin 3:3 states that dice players are invalid witnesses. If you were wondering what one of these dice may have looked like, here is one that was for sale at an auction a few years ago. It sold for $17,000.

d4205385r.jpg

(hat tip)

For more on the subject see Joshua Schwartz, “Gambling in ancient Jewish society and in the Graeco-Roman world,” in Jews in a Graeco-Roman World (1998) 145-165.

5 Responses to “Dice Players in Antiquity”

  1. 1
    Tzvi:

    MM,

    I always understood the word Kubia (as in the mishna “mesachek b’kubia”) to be a cube because it sounds similar. Is that wrong?

  2. 2
    S.:

    No, it’s probably not wrong. It’s probably from Greek kvβos, which meant both a cube and die.

    Jastrow, incidentally, writes χνβεια.

    The Aruch doesn’t seem to have an entry on it, but perhaps the Aruch Ha-shalem does.

  3. 3
    Menachem Mendel:

    I’ll try and check J. Schwartz’s article in the next few days and see what he says about the etymology. It could be that the above picture was of a different type of die, since these pictures are of six-sided dice, and see the entry “Tessera” in Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

  4. 4
    S.:

    Since this is a 10 sided die (pictured), one thing is for sure: they played Dungeons & Dragons in the Graeco-Roman world!

  5. 5
    Jon Baker:

    S:

    No, it’s a D-20. It has triangular faces; the only regular polyhedra with triangular faces are D-4, D-8, and D-20.

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