Ancient Roman Children’s Toys and Games

Little horse on wheels, Ancient Greek child's toy. From a tomb dating 950-900 BCE, Kerameikos Archaeological Museum, Athens's_Toy).jpg

The youth in Rome had a variety of activities for play and for exercise.  Some of the most common included jumping, wrestling, boxing and racing.  Activities for the wealthy also included hunting and fishing.  The Romans played many hand games including one similar to ‘handball’ that we still play nowadays.  A few examples of toys include:  balls, board games, hobbyhorses (which is in the picture above), kites, tiny models of people and animals. The ancient Romans played with hoops, with pieces of metal on them, like bells, to jingle and warn people in their way. Boys walked on stilts and played games with balls. They played tic-tac-toe, and a game called “knucklebones”, which is a lot like jacks, only played with bones.  The boys played many war-type games. They played war, and fought with wooden swords. A popular games was a game called “Troy” (lusus Troiae) where a whole pack of kids outnumbering you, who’d try to drag you across a line. Gambling, board games and dice games were also activities the Romans would entertain themselves with.  The girls played with dolls that were made of wax or terracotta (shown in the picture below), sticks, bows and arrows, and yo-yos. When Greek children, especially the girls, came of age it was tradition for them to sacrifice the toys of their childhood to the gods. On the eve of their wedding, young girls, around the ripe old age of fourteen, would offer their dolls in a temple as a rite of passage into adulthood.  After this event women were no longer allowed to be involved in these activities.  Those women, who were in wealthy families, were able to throw dinner parties that could possibly have dancing, poetry readings or music as forms of entertainment.  Smaller children were able to entertain themselves with small toys or games such as leapfrog. 

BBC. Romans: Family and children . 2011. (accessed November 7, 2011).



BBC. Romans: Family and children . 2011. (accessed November 7, 2011).

Rostovtzeff, Mikhail. “A History of the Ancient World: Rome.” In A History of the Ancient World: Rome, by Mikhail Rostovtzeff, 387. Cheshire, CT: Biblo and Tannen Booksellers and Publishers Inc., 1927.    <

ThinkQuest. The Life of a Roman Child. June 2010. (accessed November 7, 2011).


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3 responses to “Ancient Roman Children’s Toys and Games

  1. It is fascinating to know that child’s play has not changed much over the millennium. I especially like the ritual of sacraficing your toys to the god on the eve of adult hood. I know of parents that do similar things when thier child outgrows certain toys or beloved objects. What suprises me is that the girls are not allowed to simply pass thier dolls onto a younger sister or cousin. The other thing I find humerous is that men are still allowed to play games while women have to find a new sort of entertainment. I guess the addage of men and thier toys could be applied to this time as well.
    All in all a truely fascinating and enlightening blog, thank you.

  2. hadrian73

    Neat subject, the “Troy” game sounds like a reverse version of “Red Rover.” What type of method’s did they use when sacrificing the toys? Burning? Gutting? or a combination?

  3. maximus4720

    I found subject pretty cool. I think I would love to play the game Troy. It sounds like a fun game to play with the guys. I also found it interesting that the girls would sacrifice their dolls to the Gods to enter in to adulthood. Good job.

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