When was backgammon invented?
Quatr.us answers questions
Upgrade /Log in
Options /Log out
Print
About
Africa
Egypt
Mesopotamia
Early Europe
Greece
Rome
China
India
Central Asia
Medieval
Islamic Empire
Native Americans
S./Central America
American History
Biology
Chemistry
Geology
Math
Physics
Weather
Food
Judaism
Christianity
Home

History of Backgammon

Royal Game of Ur
Royal Game of Ur (2600 BC; British Museum)

May 2016 - Backgammon is descended from much older board games from Africa and West Asia like Senet and Tabula and Nard. It's probably most closely related to the Royal Game of Ur, played in Sumer and in Shahr-i Sokhta (in modern Iran) about 3000 BC.

men play backgammon while women play checkers
Central Asian men play backgammon while
the women play checkers (?)
(Timurid, ca. 1400 AD)

People in Iran seem to have been playing backgammon in more or less its modern form by the time of the Sassanid Empire, about 500 AD. About the same time, the Roman Emperor Zeno played a very similar game in Constantinople. By the Middle Ages (about 1050 AD), people were playing backgammon in Europe as well as in West Asia and Central Asia.

Medieval backgammon
Backgammon from the 1300s AD (medieval Switzerland)

From Afghanistan to England, people used backgammon as a gambling game, betting money on rolls of the dice. To Europeans, this gambling seemed like a bad idea. King Louis IX banned backgammon in France for a while, and in the 1500s backgammon was banned in England too. In the Middle Ages, many Europeans thought playing this new foreign game of backgammon was a waste of time and would lead you to a bad life, just the way some people think of video games today.


A project making a backgammon board
More about chess
More about playing cards

Bibliography and further reading about the history of board games:

Kids play
Kids Around the World Play!: The Best Fun and Games from Many Lands, by Arlette N. Braman (2002). Easy reading. There are lots of ancient games in here too, even though the title doesn't say so.

Chinese games (Go)
Indian games (Chutes and Ladders)
Egyptian games (Dice)
Islamic games (Polo and Chess)
North American games
Quatr.us home


Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

Help support Quatr.us!

Quatr.us (formerly "History for Kids") is entirely supported by your generous donations and by our sponsors. Most donors give about $10. Can you give $10 today to keep this site running? Or give $50 to sponsor a page?

Now that the weather's nice, try some of these outdoor activities! How about bicycle polo, or archery for a Medieval Islam day? Or kite flying or making a compass for a day in Medieval China? How about making a shaduf for a day in Ancient Egypt? Holding an Ancient Greek Olympic Games or a medieval European tournament? Building a Native American wickiup?