Ancient Greek Toys and Games – They had Dolls too

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While writing my Third Novel that is based in Classical Greece, I had to think about my characters upbringing, their parents, siblings, the city-states they lived in, and the different events that effected their childhoods. And then I realized, how did the Ancient Greek kids have fun? A lot of our evidence comes from pictures on pottery vases and artefacts.

Types of Toys and Games:

Dolls

  • Made from rags, wood, wax and clay
  • Some dolls had moveable arms and legs

Unknown, Greek  Jointed Doll Holding a Tambourine, 4th Century BCE  On the night before a Greek girl married, she dedicated her childhood toys and dolls to a goddess, usually Artemis, the chaste goddess of the moon and the hunt.  Jointed dolls were common and were made of materials such as wood, terracotta, bone, ivory, marble and alabaster.  Their bodies were covered with white or flesh-colored slip (liquid clay) and the hair was painted red or yellow.   Memorial Art GalleryGreek jointed doll or figurine University of Pennsylvania Museum of ArcheologyDoll. Terracotta, made in Tarentum (ancient Greek colony, present day Italy) 3rd century BC.

Rattles, Hoops, Yo-yos, Hobby horsesToy wagons

Juggling

  • wool or apples

Balls

  • made from rags or blown-up pig’s bladder

Knucklebones

  • made from ankle-bones of sheep or goats

Ephedrismos

    two players place a stone upright on the ground and throw other stones at it from a distance. The winner who hits the stone rides on the losers back.

Morra

  • two players make a fist behind their backs and before they reveal what numbers of fingers they have extended, they must guess the other players number.

Ancient Greek Toy Horse

My favourite would be the ancient Greek dolls, not because I am a girl, okay, maybe it is, but one of my main characters from my Third Novel, Kleio, was given a doll when she was a child. I had to research what type of doll she had and what it meant to her. I will also mention something to you about the Ancient Greeks. Their religion was integral to the celebration of life events, for rites of passage – many people would know this. When a girl was about to get married, she would offer a childhood toy, usually a doll, to the goddess who protected her during childhood, Artemis. The offering of the toy to the goddess at her temple was a symbol of the girls transition of maidenhood to that of a bride, wife and mother. She was considered to be a nympha (nymph), a virgin girl, until she was married. My character, Kleio, looks upon the doll, and I as the writer, use it to trigger memories for her to reflect on. I’m still working out the description of the doll, but she does have moveable arms and legs, and I have a range of artefacts to help me write the doll’s description and features. You could just imagine little girls playing with their dolls in their family’s courtyards and at the marketplace.

Till next time,
Claire

Related Articles with more information:

http://athenagames.gr/en/

http://hoodmuseum.dartmouth.edu/exhibitions/coa/re_high_games.html

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/gtal/hd_gtal.htm

http://dollmusem.blogspot.com.au/2011/09/ancient-greece.html

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8 thoughts on “Ancient Greek Toys and Games – They had Dolls too

  1. If I had been born in Athens sometime BC, I probably would have given my children dolls of Aristotle or of Zeus and Hera, a Trojan Horse, a Pythagorean cup and maybe even a Heron’s fountain.

  2. I love the baby’s booster seat! Hadn’t seen an image of one before. Reading the descriptions of the games you’ve listed many may have evolved over time, except for knuckle-bones. Played it when I was in primary school and the game with hitting a rock could be the precursor for marbles or bowls!
    I know who to contact if I need information on Ancient Greek games. 😀

    1. Thanks Rita 🙂
      Yes, that would be awesome if someone made replicas of those dolls in Crete, and if there happened to be an exhibition to show how the dolls were played with.

  3. I must take a look in the Museums, but I can’t remember seeing any. But then again I wasn’t looking for dolls at the time I was too engrossed looking for the Linear B tablets because as you know I am studying the Linear B Script writings. Thanks for likes and comments on my blog Claire.
    Love this post of your !!

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