Spherical Trias of ancient Nikopolis


«I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.» – Alexander the Great

Spherical Trias of ancient Nikopolis (tabula lusoria in Latin) is one of the most common strategy board games that the ancient Greeks used to practice daily. It is based on the Trias of Ostia Antica (also available here), was evolved into a much more complex game, requiring further strategic thinking. It is no coincidence that many soldiers and officers often trained in it, while it also survived in ancient Rome where it was very popular, this time under the name “tabula lusoria”.

Spherical Trias was found engraved on several archeological sites, such as on a slab of the road of ancient Nikopolis, a city built on the peninsula that separates the Amvrakikos Gulf from the Ionian Sea. In addition, several engravings of this particular board game were found on slabs of the historic city of Philippi, while the huge spherical three found engraved, almost crafted on Maximus Street, below Thessaloniki, reveals that in the middle of this busy street Roman soldiers and centurions were playing Spherical Trias.

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originated in ancient Greece

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< A mirror dated back to 3rd century B.C., depicting a couple playing a strategy board game. This ancient artifact is on display at the British Museum in London, UK.

< A mirror dated back to 3rd century B.C., depicting a couple playing a strategy board game. This ancient artifact is on display at the British Museum in London, UK.

Bringing Ancient Artifacts to the 21st century

In the world of Classical Greece, War and Rhetoric (in the sense of political confrontation) were considered the ideal fields to practice virtue and sharp your mind.

No matter if you were the offspring of a eupatrid (member of the nobility of ancient Athens, or the child of a farmer, the Greeks had the opportunity to stand out for their ability to win "battles" and lead. In this endeavor, strategic thinking was the most valuable asset.

This is why ancient Greeks designed a series of highly educational board games, through which the youngsters sharpened their minds and developed critical thinking. It is no coincidence that Lysimachus, tutor of Alexander the Great, devised a game for the latter to practice. He was encouraged to play the role of Achilles, and the latter gradually became an archetypal figure (that of the "noble warrior") in the youthful mind of Alexander the Great. What Alexander the Great did next is well-known all over the world.

Selected Bibliography


Brouwers, Josho (2020). Ancient Greek heroes at play, Ancient World Magazine.

Kowalski, Wladyslaw. (2004). Board Games of the Ancient World. P Art and Culture. Autumn. 2-25.

Kurke, L. (1999). Ancient Greek Board Games and How to Play Them. Classical Philology, 94(3), 247-267.

Metcalfe, Tom (2018). 16 of the Most Interesting Ancient Board and Dice Games, Live Science.

Schädler, Ulrich. (2009). Pente grammai -- the ancient Greek board game Five Lines.

Woods, Stewart (2012). Eurogames: The Design, Culture, and Play of Modern European Board Games. p. 17. ISBN 9780786490653.

Λάζος, Χρήστος Δ. (2002). Παίζοντας στο χρόνο: αρχαιοελληνικά και βυζαντινά παιχνίδια 1700 π.Χ.-1500 μ.Χ., Εκδόσεις Αίολος.

Plato. The Republic, written around 375 B.C.

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A 39 x 5.5 cm cylinder package made of recycled material, 26 pillars (or pieces) made of cherry and linden wood, board game made of canvas, wooden "λάχνισμα" (a type of ancient dice), a pouch made of knitted linen, game rules printed on recycled paper.

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Made mainly with materials available during antiquity such as cherry and linden wood for the pieces, paper for game rules, canvas for the boards, hand knitted linen for the pouches, et cetera.

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Spherical Trias of ancient Nikopolis