Figurine of a young woman with a dice and a game board

Material: Bronze
Provenance: Nicomedeia in Bithynia/Asia Minor. Former Collection of ╩. ╩arapanos
Date: 3rd-4th c. AD.
Dimensions: Length 21,8 cm., height 12,2 cm.
Exhibition place: Room 39, Case 61, inv. no.╩ß˝. 780

The statuette, cast in bronze, wears a tunic and an outer garment tied under the breasts and sits as if seated on a couch. She wears bracelets in both her arms and wrists and a cap with four crests. Next to her left hand, which rests on the ground, lies a dice from a game. Its upper side shows six impressed circles with a dot in the centre. The fact that the highest score has been attained is to be regarded as a good omen. Next to her right palm a circular disc with six or seven incised circles can be seen. It is thought to be a board for a women's game involving five pebbles.

Dice were thrown either as part of a board game or on their own. In Plato's view, the Egyptian god Thoth was the inventor of dice. Herodotus attributes their invention to Lydians in their attempt to divert their population during a period of starvation lasting 18 years. Finally, according to Pausanias the hero Palamedes, who introduced the use of numbers and of weights and measures, dedicated to the temple of Fortune in Argos the dice he had invented.

The statuette decorated the wall of a chariot found during the excavation of a villa in Bithynia, in Asia Minor which might be connected with the palace of Diocletian (285-304 AD) in Nicomedia. This administrative centre facilitated the government of the eastern part of the Roman empire. Chariots of this kind were used in triumphal processions. A similar heraldic figure is placed next to this statuette in the modern reconstruction of wood and plexiglass in Case no. 61 of the National Archaeological Museum.

┬ibliography: ┼.von Mercklin, "Wagenschmuck aus der Romischen Kaiserzeit", Jahrbuch des Instituts, 48 (1933) 142-143 fig. 67. ╠. Fitta, Spiele und Spielzeug in der Antike. Unterhaltung und Vergnugen imAltertum, Stuttgart 1998, 110-120.

 
 
 
 
 
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