Backgammon

Draughts and backgammon, Germany 1920s-1930s Museum no. MISC.829-1986

According to Indian legend, backgammon was invented by a man named Qaflan. He designed the game board to have 24 points for the hours of a day, twelve points of each half-board for the months of the year and Zodiac signs, 30 pieces for the days of the month, two dice for the day and night, and seven spots on the opposite sides of a die to represent the days of the week, and planets of the solar system which were known at the time.

Ancient Indian and Egyptian cultures played a variation of backgammon called “Senat” which was popular among both the Egyptian aristocracy and the slave population. It spread to Greece and Rome where it grew in popularity, finding its way to Persia where it was known as Takhteh Nard, roughly translated as "Battle on Wood".

The game travelled into Anglo Saxon culture in the 1st century AD. For centuries it was as popular as chess, innkeepers provided game boards and knights carried it on their journeys. In England, during the Middle Ages, the church waged a long and losing battle against board games. Cardinal Wolsey made the last attempt to outlaw backgammon in the 16th century. The cardinal ordered all boards burnt and declared the game "the devil's folly". But English craftsman quickly came up with the idea of folding the boards in half in a book-type arrangement to disguise them. This folded design is the standard way in which backgammon sets are still made to this day.

By the 18th century it was the favourite game of the middle classes. It gained the name backgammon from ‘back’ and ‘gamen’ ( game in Middle English), because in certain circumstances, the pieces are obliged to go back and re-enter the board.

 

 

 

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