Friday, November 13, 2009

History of Gambling

My recently completed novel, The Glass Partridge, is set in Venice during the 1600s, and because the heroine loves to gamble, I researched the history of gambling. Here is some information I gathered during my search.
Archeologists have uncovered evidence of gambling in ancient times. Knucklebones of sheep were a primitive form of dice, but a pair of ivory dice, dating before 1500 B.C. was found in Egypt, proving that the dice of today are much like those used for centuries.
Betting on athletic games at the Roman coliseum drew rich and poor alike. Later, during the Middle Ages, gambling in all its forms took place in private homes and also in public.
Before the invention of the printing press, cards were a rich man’s game, as each card was stamped from a woodcut. Later, a deck of cards was readily accessible in every tavern in Europe. When the English came to the New World, they brought the culture of gambling with them, but the Puritan-led Massachusetts Bay Colony outlawed possession of cards and dice (along with dancing and singing). Later, the rules were relaxed, as long as the game was an innocent one and no money exchanged hands.
In The Glass Partridge, the heroine goes to a ridotto, a salon for gambling and other pastimes. Ridotti became very popular in Europe, even serving as forums for the arts. Verdi celebrated the opening of his opera, Rigoletto, in the Ridotto San Moise.
In the 1800s, the Doge of Venice closed the ridotti, and they were reopened as state run casinos.
For further reading, there is a very good book by David Schwartz, titled Roll the Bones, which covers every aspect of the history of gambling in Europe and the United States.


Mary Ricksen said...

Cool, never knew any of this. Now you got me thinking, what did they do before cards and dice?
Interesting blog.

Joyce Moore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joyce Moore said...

Hi Mary: Always good to hear from you. Well, dice, in one form or another have been around, probably since cave men gambling for food. Since they were knuckle bones, no telling how early they used them. I'm sure they had games we don't even know about, since the only way we would know is by a drawing on pottery or something. Heck, I guess as fiction writers, we could have cave men gambling for a deer hide or something.
Keep in touch. You always give me something to think about.