Ancient Roman D20 for sale, $18,000

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52 Responses to “Ancient Roman D20 for sale, $18,000”

  1. Jerril says:

    The shape was known; what’s new to me was that it could be made in glass so well back then.

    It’s very easy to make in glass.

    1) Cast a glass blob a little bit larger than the dodecahedron you eventually want.
    2) Get sand paper.
    3) start filing off all the bits that don’t look like a dodecahedron.
    4) ????
    5) PROFIT!!

    Basically, you treat the glass like a gemstone, and shape it when hardened, not when soft. You can of course use more sophisticated cutting implements, but IIRC proper gem cutting, as opposed to sanding bits off, was invented somewhere in the middle ages.

  2. dqkennard says:

    I like the idea of using Roman-era dice for gaming. Ideally, while drinking from an 8,000 year old Neolithic-era cup.

  3. Jack says:

    Did Roman’s have graph paper?

  4. Steven says:

    for one, am i reading that listing wrong, because it would appear as though christie’s actually sold the dies in 2003; that is, it’s not exactly “currently up for sale.”

    it’s still a lovely thing; though my appreciation is more for roman glasswork than gaming, about which i know nothing.

  5. BuildUupBuzzKill says:

    wonder if a wealthy gamer bought this or a roman collector… i would like to think a gammer now owns this and rolls this amazing die

  6. Stefan Jones says:

    The die was used in “Annos MC!”, a science fiction game set in an apocalyptic future in which grubby armored warlords battled over turf while Christians build gigantic futuristic temples.

  7. gobo says:

    Dude! You rolled a natural Pisces! Total crit!

  8. ckuchy says:

    I can’t believe no one said this yet . . .

    Ahem . .

    So, when Julius Cesear said that the die is cast, I guess he was rolling for initiative!

    (drum beat)

  9. Takuan says:

    ‘ere! I fot I lost that when we bleedin’ crucified that Jewish bloke! Thats me lucky die , that is, I won me this here robe I been usin’ to wipe the bleedin’ windows!

  10. Faustus says:

    @Takuan, Nice quote from my favourite adaptation of the crucifiction of christ! Dick Van Dyke was inspired casting as “3rd roman/cockney soldier”

  11. Bevatron Repairman says:

    I would so actually play with that.

  12. Johan Larson says:

    You guys are all heretics. There is no die but d6.

  13. Takuan says:

    I must inquire though: do my various attempts at capturing British dialects cause native speakers(and ears) to merely knock their brains out on kerbs to make it stop? Or is it sufficient to ram knitting needles full length into the ear canals in vain effort to ease the agony? Just curious.

  14. absimiliard says:

    “So, when Julius Cesear said that the die is cast, I guess he was rolling for initiative!”

    Given how fast he got to Rome, and that it was so fast that it forced the Senatorial faction to flee without even taking the treasury . . . .

    I think he won that initiative roll!

    -abs

  15. ggm says:

    Ikey Mo is Isaac and Moses. Its not rhyming slang but its still cockney slang.

  16. ggm says:

    fot^H^H^Hfort.

    bleedin’ would be more appropriate on jewish, not crucified. And, a jewish person is colloquially an ikey-mo for some people, and even worse for others which I prefer not to repeat here, but use of the y- word for jews in cockey was routine for much of the 20th century, analogous to the modern-day re-acceptance of the n- word by african americans in recent times.

    use of ‘me’ for ‘my’ is always typographically hard. its also a bit of a mixed bag with english accents when it is, or isn’t used.

    here should be ‘ere in this here robe
    and a wot I bin using would have gone well.

  17. Takuan says:

    blimey!

  18. Foolster41 says:

    That’s pretty cool. Is this really an ancient roman die?

    Also, is that quote from Monty Python?

  19. Antiglobalism says:

    How much in our society will outlast that period of time? Not much, except maybe our coins.

  20. Takuan says:

    nope, but Life of Brian is a masterpiece

  21. GeekMan says:

    Wow, there’s a blast from 2003.

    Coincidentally, this was the very first thing I posted when I started MY blog almost five years ago.

    Meeeeemorieeeees….

  22. Clifton says:

    I wish we could see the rest of the symbols; I can only see the sun symbol (dot in circle), the curlicued Z, and the V clearly. Only the V could conceivably be a number. I wonder if the die was perhaps used for divination of some kind.

  23. gabu says:

    Look! I rolled a… circle… with a dot in it… that’s a critical hit, right!?!? Lemme roll for damage… awwwwww, I only got an… upside-down V… with a… triangle in it! What’s that? II, or III?

  24. Anonymous says:

    Funny, I was reading about ancient polyhedral dice last night, in Martin Gardner’s “Mathematical Magic Show” book, in the chapter on dice. He says the 12 and 20 sided were mostly used for fortune telling.

  25. bobkat says:

    Gabu, I’d like to think that my plastic d20′s will be around for at least 10,000 years or so.

    Incidentally, I think the 20-sided form is called an icosahedron.

  26. Colleen says:

    “Following the Christie’s link, we find:
    Provenance
    Acquired by the current owner’s father in Egypt in the 1920s.

    Translation:
    Provenance
    Immorally (if not illegally) acquired by the current owner’s father in Egypt in the 1920s from grave robbers.”

    Exactly. I wish boingboing would stop featuring looted artifacts. The antiquities trade is not a wonderful thing.

  27. Anonymous says:

    I wonder if the die was perhaps used for divination of some kind.

    Suddenly I want to play D&D with a magic 8-ball, fortune cookies and Tarot cards. Perfect for the 4th edition Star Pact Warlock/Divine Oracle.

    I cast at the orc! Aw shit, the Tower.

  28. eustace says:

    It is hard for me to believe that this is genuine. And yet, if it is, it is easy to imagine the person this should belong to. Tycho of Penny Arcade. I have to wonder if he was the winning bidder; I can imagine him finding out about this too late and screaming “Noooooooooooooooooooooo!”

  29. El Mariachi says:

    And, a jewish person is colloquially an ikey-mo for some people, and even worse for others which I prefer not to repeat here, but use of the y- word for jews in cockey was routine for much of the 20th century, analogous to the modern-day re-acceptance of the n- word by african americans in recent times.

    Huh? “ikey-mo?” “Y-word” I take to mean “yid,” and “N-word” is obviously “nggr,” but what on earth is an ikey-mo?

    See, this is the problem with strictly avoiding using the actual word we’re talking about, even when said word is not being used in a derogatory fashion. Of course we shouldn’t use “yid” or “nggr” to refer to anyone in ordinary conversation, but when the nature of the slurs is itself the topic of said conversation, it seems kind of silly to elide the very words we’re discussing.

  30. Avram says:

    Anaxaforminges #17 — Remember that the characters in The Yiddish Policeman’s Union are speaking Yiddish, not English. (Except for the occasional bits where someone says something “in American”.) In Yiddish, “yid” is a common inoffensive slang term for Jew, but it’s pronounced like “yeed”.

    In modern English, it’s not quite as offensive as “nigger”, but it’s still primarily used derogatorily by antisemites.

  31. MarkM says:

    Following the Christie’s link, we find:
    Provenance
    Acquired by the current owner’s father in Egypt in the 1920s.

    Translation:
    Provenance
    Immorally (if not illegally) acquired by the current owner’s father in Egypt in the 1920s from grave robbers.

  32. Antinous says:

    A friend of mine, who collects Bentleys, got a license plate for his most blingalicious, vintage convertible that reads ‘P YIDDY’.

  33. minTphresh says:

    old school geek!

  34. Anaxaforminges says:

    I’m currently reading “the Yiddish Policeman’s Union” and the author uses “Yid” on every other page. e.g. “This yid didn’t know a thing.”

    I didn’t know it was equal to “nggr” in offensiveness.

  35. see says:

    This die was used by Romans to play an RPG set in a post-apocalyptic future where dangerous beasts roamed the remains of the fallen empire and mysterious natural forces had been brought under the reliable control of educated men. Good ol’ Barathri et Dracones, by Gaius Gaccus.

  36. Anaxaforminges says:

    Avram #37– Oh yeah. I forget that they’re speaking yiddish. Every once in a while a character speaks “American English” and the author notes it.

    Chabon is the master of the analogy. All of his metaphors and similes are completely fresh and surprising. They knock me over with their brilliance.

  37. TJIC says:

    Immorally (if not illegally) acquired by the current owner’s father in Egypt in the 1920s from grave robbers.

    Immoral? Says who?

    Lots of Roman coins are found buried in urns, or just in fields – a glass die could certainly have turned up that way.

    Even if it was in a clay jug that surfaced because of erosion, or that a farmer dug up, etc., why is it immoral to pick up something off the ground, especially if you own the ground?

    Does the 2,000 years dead person have a better moral claim?

    Does a government (either democratic or not) have a better moral claim?

  38. martycota says:

    Watch as Indy battle’s his most annoying foe yet, a level 70 DM in Indiana Jones and the Campaign of the Glass 20 Sided Die.

  39. semiotix says:

    Nerdgasm! Or, put another way: seeing that, I just scored a critical hit in my pants.

  40. dingoblue says:

    Masons, Masons everywhere!
    Does that look like a compass?(symbol on the bottom of the die)

  41. firefly the great says:

    I wonder if the die was perhaps used for divination of some kind.

    Either gambling or divination, and if you spend much time in a casino, you’ll see that there’s really very little difference between the two.

  42. numb3r5ev3n says:

    Wow, they need to make replicas of these. I’d buy one.

    Like I don’t have enough dice already…

  43. Anonymous says:

    There’s a store in Bloomsbury, near the British Museum, that sells all sorts of antiquarian bits and bobs. For £40 a pop, you can get all the Roman d6′s you want. (Basically, screw d20 and play Roman Shadowrun instead)

  44. Certhas says:

    Eustace, why? a d20 is a platonic solid a natural shape known since thousands of years before plato. And around his time it was known that there are only 5 convex regular polyhedra (which are the properties you want for dice).

    Games have been part of human culture from the very beginning, and the technical abilities to manufacture such a d20 must have been around for centuries when this was made.

    I see no reason to suspect that this isn’t authentic.

  45. eustace says:

    The shape was known; what’s new to me was that it could be made in glass so well back then.

  46. franko says:

    somewhere, gary gygax is smiling.

  47. Kieran O'Neill says:

    #6: Yeah, as per #10, move around the bleedin’, drop a few more consonants, and maybe write “thought” as “fought” for best effect.

    Also, given that it’s obviously a cockney accent, it could use an “innit?” and some rhyming slang:

    ‘ere! I fought I lost that when we crucified that bleedin’ Jewish bloke! Thass me lucky die, innit, wot won me this ‘ere robe I been usin’ fer a Billy!

    (Billy -> Billy Piper -> window wiper)

    Not a bad job, though – certainly not one requiring curbs or knitting needles!

  48. stratosfyr says:

    Glass can actually be ground or sanded quite easily, so the material doesn’t surprise me too much. Other than ivory it’d probably be an ideal sorta-natural material.

  49. mrfitz says:

    Rome failed a saving throw with this die.

  50. bardfinn says:

    Yum.

  51. Poobot says:

    Tht’s hw rll btchs!!!

  52. Anonymous says:

    That really puts a new spin on “Alea jacta est”

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