Alea (Greek soldier)

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According to the Etymologiae by Isidore of Seville, Alea was a Greek soldier of the Trojan War who invented the dicing game tabula.[1][2] French sociologist Roger Caillois uses the term "alea" to designate those games which rely on luck rather than skill in Man, Play and Games.[3] While Caillois notes the term is the Roman word for games of chance, Robert C. Bell suggests that the Greek game tabula, a precursor to modern backgammon, became more commonly known as "alea" "towards the end of the sixth century".[4] However, games historian H. J. R. Murray asserts the shift in nomenclature was in the other direction and the game "alea" was later referred to as "tabula".[5]



  1. ^ Lapidge & O'Keefe 2005, p. 60.
  2. ^ Barney et al. 2006, XVIII.lx–lxix.2 (p. 371): "lx. The gaming-board (De tabula) Dicing (alea), that is, the game played at the gaming-board (tabula), was invented by the Greeks during lulls of the Trojan War by a certain soldier named Alea, from whom the practice took its name. The board game is played with a dice-tumbler, counters, and dice."
  3. ^ Caillois 2001, pp. 17ff.
  4. ^ Bell 2012, p. 35.
  5. ^ Murray 1952, pp. 31, 113.


  • Barney, Stephen A.; Lewis, W.J.; Beach, J. A.; Berghof, Oliver (2006). The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-13-945616-6.
  • Bell, Robert Charles (2012) [1979]. Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations. New York: Courier Dover Publications. ISBN 9780486145570.
  • Caillois, Roger (2001) [1961]. Man, Play and Games. Urbana and Chicago: University Of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-25-207033-4.
  • Lapidge, Michael; O'Keefe, Katherine O'Brien (2005). Latin Learning and English Lore: Studies in Anglo-Saxon Literature for Michael Lapidge. Toronto: Toronto University Press. ISBN 978-0-80-208919-9.
  • Murray, H. J. R. (1952). A History of Board Games Other Than Chess. Oxford: Clarendon Press.