History of Backgammon for Kids - when did people begin to play backgammon? where?


Royal Game of Ur
Royal Game of Ur (2600 BC; British Museum)

Backgammon is descended from much older board games from Africa and West Asia like Senet and Tabula and Nard. It's probably most closely related to the Royal Game of Ur, played in Sumer and in Shahr-i Sokhta (in modern Iran) about 3000 BC.

Backgammon in more or less its modern form seems to have been played in Iran by the time of the Sassanid Empire, about 500 AD. About the same time, the Roman Emperor Zeno played a very similar game in Constantinople. By the Middle Ages (about 1050 AD), people were playing backgammon in Europe as well as in West Asia.

Medieval backgammon
Backgammon from the 1300s AD (medieval Switzerland)

All over West Asia and Europe, people used backgammon as a gambling game, betting money on the winner. Because of this gambling, King Louis IX banned backgammon in France for a while, and in the 1500s backgammon was banned in England too. In the Middle Ages, people thought playing this new game of backgammon was a waste of time and would lead you to a bad life, just the way some people think of video games today.

A project making a backgammon board
Other board games
Athletic games
Dice games

To find out more about ancient and medieval board games, check out these books from Amazon.com or from your library:

Kids play
Kids Around the World Play!: The Best Fun and Games from Many Lands, by Arlette N. Braman (2002). For kids. There are lots of ancient games in here too, even though the title doesn't say so.

Chinese games (Kung Fu)
Roman games (Gladiators)
West Asian games (Gambling and horse races)
Egyptian games (Dice)
Greek games (Olympics)
Islamic games (Polo and Chess)
Medieval games (Tournaments)
North American games (Lacrosse)
Teacher's Guides for Games
Main Games page
Kidipede - History for Kids home page

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