The history of backgammon, the oldest known board game, is an interesting one that began almost 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia. Numerous variations of the game were adopted by other cultures throughout the history of backgammon. Archaeologists continue to discover many similar games in the ruins of ancient civilizations as they explore the intriguing history of backgammon.
The actual name for backgammon comes from a Welsh term meaning “wee battle.” However, the history of backgammon reflects many different names and versions. The aristocracy and slave population of Egypt and Greece played a similar game called, “senat.” The Romans changed the number of dice from two to three and called it “bac gamen” or “back game.” From the Roman civilization, backgammon moved to Persia, where it was again played with two dice in a game called “Takhteh Nard’ or ‘Battle on Wood.’ During the time of the Crusades, the Anglo Saxon soldiers and traders played yet another version called “Tables” or “Tabula.”
Throughout the history of backgammon, the Church attempted several times to ban the game, but always failed. Cardinal Woolsey, in the 16th century, ordered all the boards burned, calling the game “the devil’s folly.” Burning the boards was useless, however, since any type of board could be drawn in dirt or sand and played with small pebbles. Dice were often handmade and were small enough to be easily concealed on a person or hidden in someone’s home. Furthermore, the English were very clever and decided to disguise the backgammon board as a folding book. Their innovative craftsmanship is still evident in the board we use today.
Edmund Hoyle, the famous writer and gamesman, documented the rules and the history of backgammon in the mid 1700’s. Colonists from England brought backgammon to their homes in America, along with chess and other board games of the times. Although the game of backgammon lost some popularity in the Victorian era, it quickly reappeared and gained strength in the 20th century. At this time, an unknown inventor devised the doubling cube, which offers players the opportunity to multiply their initial wager by the amount on the doubling cube. Of course, some strategy and experience is needed before using the doubling cube.
Tournaments, books, magazines, and clubs are now a part of the history of backgammon. The introduction of the game on the Internet has increased its popularity to an even greater extent. Backgammon is a fast-paced, challenging, and entertaining game of skill and luck.