The Fascinating History of Dice in the Ancient World

In the most generic sense, gambling has existed pretty much since the dawn of mankind. You can count through thousands of years of human history, and still, you’ll find it there. As civilisations evolved, gambling as a form of entertainment became ever more complex – ultimately morphing from the simplest games of chance to the innovation of online casinos.

One particular gaming ‘tool’ has an especially fascinating history: the humble dice. Discovered in an Egyptian tomb dating all the way back to 3000BC, dice have been in use for at least the last 5000 years. During which, they’ve had a massive impact on the way the world looks at gambling and most other types of gaming in general.

Try to imagine a world without the humble dice and you’ll quickly realise just how important this seemingly insignificant cube really is! 

An Egyptian Tool for Divination

Modern dice would arguably be unrecognisable to the individuals who first used them. Now often existing entirely in the abstract, those who play at casinos online never physically handle the material object in the traditional sense. 

In fact, the entire concept of modern gaming would be completely alien to the Ancient Egyptians, from the fast-paced slots found at internet casinos to the neon-lit gambling meccas of Vegas.

The idea of chancing with fate would have been more familiar, with dice known to exist all the way back in 3000BC. These were often far more complex than the objects we’re used to, having up to 20 different faces.

Referred to as ‘polyhedra’, little is known about how these dice were used, but some believe they were a tool for communicating with the supernatural. Certainly, an Egyptian dice discovered in the 1980s tallies with this theory. With each of its faces inscribed with the name of a god written in Demotic, it’s believed the dice was thrown as a way of determining which deity would assist the practitioner.

Splitting the World in Greek Mythology  

The Ancient Egyptians were not the only civilisation to use dice. They were also popular among the Greeks, who had a real penchant for gaming, and we see them mentioned many times in the mythology of the period.

Firstly, the gods of Olympus are reputed to have rolled dice in order to divide the universe between them. Zeus won, and so he became King of the Olympians and ruler of the sky. Poseidon came next and picked the sea as his dominion. This left Hades, who was forced to become God of the Underworld.

Despite this tale, however, the Greek tragedian Sophocles claimed a much later origin for the object, suggesting dice were invented during the siege of Troy. While his statement doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny, it’s interesting to note that his writings, made in 500BC, were the first reference to dice during this period.

Outlawed in Ancient Rome

The Ancient Romans were also big proponents of gambling, but the pastime was heavily discouraged by the state. While this didn’t stop people from playing, it did lead to penalties, with anyone caught being fined four-times their stake.

One of the more interesting historic ‘terms and conditions’ that applied to gambling, but one that did nothing to curb its popularity.

As the fines largely applied to dice games, one of the most popular forms of entertainment in this era, the citizens of Rome had to be creative and it’s believed that this is why gambling chips were invented. The idea was that, if caught, bettors could claim they were playing for bits of wood or stone rather than money.

We know that such games remained popular at that time, due to the volume of dice found at Pompeii. As well as wall paintings depicting the activity, discovered in a bar on the city’s main street, a large amount of gambling paraphernalia was also found beneath the ash.

When it comes to understanding the role of dice within the ancient world, archaeological evidence suggests these were widely used in the most popular forms of entertainment of the time. This heavily mirrors their purpose today, where dice continue to play a major role in the vast majority of popular games.

Today’s Digital Alternative

Solving the problem of creating a ‘virtual’ dice is what held the key to the advent of the online casino industry. The long and short of it being that in order for online casino operators to do business, they needed to create something to replace dice and decks of cards.

Hence, you could argue that the introduction of the ‘random number generator’ represented the biggest and most important shift in casino gaming since the invention of the dice.

As the name suggests, RNG software is designed to ensure a completely random outcome with every virtual roll, spin or card dealt. A relatively basic computer algorithm is used, instructing the system to churn out consistently random numbers with zero predictability. As would be the same when rolling a dice, nobody can predict the outcome with RNG software – even those programming and/or using it.

Can RNG Software Be Trusted?

Is it possible to doctor RNG software to influence the outcome? The short answer is yes – and doing so is surprisingly simple. Just as unscrupulous operators have loaded dice, stacked cards and weighted roulette wheels throughout history, creating and using a completely unfair RNG is perfectly possible.

Nevertheless, getting away with such tactics isn’t quite so simple.

This is where the importance of doing business exclusively with licensed and regulated online casinos comes into the mix. Where a casino is appropriately licensed and regulated, it undergoes regular audits to ensure the fairness of its RNG. If any discrepancies are found, heavy fines are payable and the casino loses its license – ultimately going out of business.

Therefore, the short answer to the question is yes – RNG software can be trusted, if doing business with a trusted casino. Take chances on an unlicensed/unregulated casino however and it’s an entirely different story. 

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