Agesilaos Antik Sikkeler Nümzimatik

Ancient Greek Game Knucklebones

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Ancient Greek game Knucklebones


The name "knucklebones" is derived from the Ancient Greek version of the game, which uses the astragalus [a bone in the ankle, or hock] of a sheep. However, different variants of the game from various cultures use other objects, including stones, seashells, seeds, and cubes. The game of Knucklebones [Astragali] was associated with the goddess Aphrodite, with the highest throw normally being called Aphrodite.

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Knucklebones the practice of contacting divine truth via random castings of dice or bones.Astragalomancy is a form of divination that uses dice specially marked with letters or numbers. Historically, as with dice games, dice were usually knuckles or other small bones of quadrupeds.

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Archaeological evidence suggests that knucklebones were thrown by the devotees of the Cnidian Aphrodite to determine if they would enjoy the goddess’ favours. Lucian mentions the game of knucklebones in a passage in Amores [15-16], where he recounts the suffering of a young nobleman of Cnidus who was love-struck by the city’s most prized possession, the statue of Aphrodite by Praxiteles. The Cnidians are said to have acquired the statue after it was rejected by the people of Cos, who took exception to the fully nude figure of the goddess. This ground-breaking work of art soon became a major tourist attraction, as it was placed in an open-air temple so it could be viewed from all angles. Lucian states: “...in the morning he would leave his bed long before dawn, go to the temple and only return home reluctantly after sunset. All day long he would sit facing the goddess with his eyes fixed uninterruptedly upon her, whispering indistinctly and carrying on a lover’s complaints in secret conversation. But when he wished to give himself some little comfort from his suffering, after first addressing the goddess, he would count out on the table four knuckle-bones of a Libyan gazelle and take a gamble on his expectations. If he made a successful throw and particularly if ever he was blessed with the throw named after the goddess herself, and no dice showed the same face, he would prostrate himself before the goddess, thinking he would gain his desire. But, if as usually happens he made an indifferent throw on to his table, and the dice revealed an unpropitious result, he would curse all Cnidus and show utter dejection as if at an irremediable disaster; but a minute later he would snatch up the dice and try to cure by another throw his earlier lack of success.

The anemone behind Aphrodite is also of interest, for it alludes to another aspect of this goddess – her infatuation with the young shepherd Adonis. She and Persephone quarrelled over their right to be with Adonis, and were forced to share him. Upon maturing, Adonis took an interest in hunting, and on one outing he was gored to death by a wild boar. In most accounts it is described as accidental, but in others a vengeful act by Ares or Artemis. Aphrodite was grief-stricken, and there are a number of accounts of subsequent events that explain the significance of the anemone. One suggests Adonis was transformed into the rose, another that the anemone, previously white, was stained red by the blood of Adonis, and yet another indicates that the rose became red when Aphrodite was pricked by a thorn as she wandered barefooted in a state of grief. In another account the blood of Adonis caused the first rose to spring up and the anemone arose from his tears. Finally, Ovid’s account states that a blood-red anemone sprang up when Aphrodite sprinkled Adonis’ blood with nectar.

Astragaloi - Astragali are quite rarely depicted on coins from the Greek world in general. Cilicia Tarsos 370 BC.

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