Playing the Roman games is essential, but it is also important to think about them as cultural and historical objects.
Show the board and counters to the students and ask them what they think they are. Establish that the board is broken and then investigate further. Does it remind them of any game they know? Could that game be played on this board? How many squares do they think it had? Why does it have a double line at the edge – is this part of the game or the limit of the board? What does it tell them that there seem to be several different sorts of counter? Once they have produced ideas about the game, they could have a go at inventing one to play on this board with these counters.
Use the websites in About the object to find the rules of latrunculi. Make a full board and set of pieces for the classroom and play it. You could then investigate and make sets for other Roman games and hold a Roman Games Day inviting in parents and carers or teaching the games to other classes.
How did the game of latrunculi get to North Wales?This is a very good chance for students to understand the Roman army as a vehicle of cultural transmission. They could then move on to thinking about what other aspects of life might travel with an army. You could use the games in A bigger picture to extend the investigation. Locate these games on a map. Find out where the games originated. Consider the Lewis chess set – here is a set of game pieces found in the very north of Scotland for playing a game invented in India. Which games have not travelled? Why might this be?
What is the point of games? Ask the students to think about why people play games. Discuss what people learn from playing games. Ask them to ask their parents and carers why they introduced their children to games. Do a class survey of favourite games. Look at them and a variety of ancient games and discuss what people learn from them. You could consider whether playing war or fighting games encourages aggressive behaviour.
Board games were played across the social range, but certain pastimes were associated particularly with the elite. This was the case for hunting which required enough wealth to maintain a stable of horses and pack of hounds. Find out more about Roman hunting and about who took part. You could then extend the enquiry to other elite pastimes such as music and the use of libraries and investigate the evidence for them. Then challenge the students to find out about ordinary people’s leisure activities. Are there differences in the types of evidence they can find?
Other leisure activities that lend themselves to enquiries are large-scale entertainments such as gladiators, chariot-racing and theatre and music and dance. In some cases, the evidence for an activity such as music may seem to associate it with the rich, but you should discuss with students whether they really think that lack of evidence in these cases means that poor people did not engage in such activities.