Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/245

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233
THE HISTORY OF GAMES.

into sport should rise again as science, and man's failure to divine the future should lead him to success in controlling it?

Already in the ancient world there appear mentions of games where the throws of lots or dice, perhaps at first merely scored with counters on a hoard, give the excitement of chance to a game which is partly a draught-game, the player being allowed to judge with which pieces he will move his allotted number. In England this group of games is represented by backgammon. When Greek writers mention dice-playing, they no doubt often mean some game of this class, for at mere hazard the Persian queen-mother could not have played her game carefully, as Plutarch says she did, nor would there have been any sense in his remark that in life, as in dicing, one must not only get good throws, but know how to use them. The Roman game of the twelve lines (duodecim scripta) so nearly corresponded with our trictrac or backgammon, that M. Becq de Fouquières, in his "Jeux des Anciens," works out on the ordinary backgammon-board the problem of the Emperor Zeno that has vexed the soul of many a critic. All these games, however, are played with dice, and as there exist other games of like principle where lots are thrown instead of dice, it may perhaps be inferred that such ruder and clumsier lot-backgammon was the earlier, and dice-backgammon a later improvement upon it. Of course, things may have happened the opposite way. Lot-backgammon is still played in the East in more than one form. The Arabic-speaking peoples call it tab, or game, and play it with an oblong board or rows of holes in the ground, with bits of brick and stone for draughts of the two colors, and for lots four palm-stick slips with a black and white side. In this low variety of lot-backgammon, the object is not to get one's own men home, but to take all the adversary's. The best representative of this group of games is the Hindoo pachisi, which belongs to a series ancient in India. It is played on a cross-shaped board or embroidered cloth, up and down the arms of which the pieces move and take, in somewhat the manner of backgammon, till they get back to the central home. The men move by the throws of a number of cowries, of which the better throws not only score high, but entitle the player to a new throw, which corresponds to our rule of doubles giving a double move at backgammon. The game of pachisi has great vogue in Asia, extending into the far East, where it is played with flat tamarind-seeds as lots. It even appears to have found its way still farther eastward, into America, forming a link in the chain of evidence of an Asiatic element in the civilization of the Aztecs.[1] For the early Spanish-American writers describe, as played at the court of Montezuma, a game called patolli, played after the manner of their European tables or backgammon, but on a mat with a diagram like a + or Greek cross, full of squares on which the different-colored stones or pieces of the

  1. See the author's paper in the "Journal of the Anthropological Institute," November, 1818.