Page:America's National Game (1911).djvu/43

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CHAPTER II.

ANTIQUITY OF THE GAME OF BALL—ARCHÆOLOGY, MYTHOLOGY, TRADITION AND HISTORY NOTE GAMES OF BALL FROM THE BEGINNING OF RECORDED TIME—THE MAN WHO DEVISED BASE BALL.

ARCHÆOLOGY contributes its testimony to the antiquity of ball-playing by opening its storehouses of ancient treasures; for, graven on tablets, and temples and monuments, have been found pictures of human figures in the act of playing with balls.

Four thousand years ago, in the 12th Egyptian dynasty, a Coptic artist sculptured on the temple Beni Hassan, human figures throwing and catching balls. A leather-covered ball used in games played on the Nile over forty centuries ago, has a place among the many archæological specimens in the British Museum, at London. It has a sewed cover and is still in a remarkable state of preservation.

The game of ball was prized by the Greeks as giving grace and elasticity to the human figure, and they erected a statue to one Aristonicus for his proficiency in it. We are told by Horace that Mæcenas amused himself during his journeys by playing ball. In the Greek gymnasia and in the Roman baths there were special compartments for ball-playing, called Sphæristerii, where certain rules and gradations of exercise were observed, according to the health of the player. The balls used were of various

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