The Ancient Greeks were passionate about their games and how to play. Apart from coining their terms about games, they also personified a goddess of playfulness, titled Patagonia which indicated the love, passion, and dedication that play had in their lives. Playing games was an integral part of their lives, particularly the Ancient Greek childhood which was a period of time when they learned to socialize with friends, family, and others. It was also the time when gender and sex stereotyping were being enforced in the minds of the Ancient Greek population.
The kids of the Ancient Greek times had a number of Ancient Greek toys to play with, in their leisure and free time. Some of them included- dolls, rattles, tops, swings, etc. Along with these, many other items of play have been unearthed by archaeologists. These were a key part of the Ancient Greek childhood.
Kinds of Toys found in Ancient Greece
The artistic representations and the literary sources have revealed the most common children’s toys to balls and hoops. They have been found depicted in the majority. They were usually made of wood or other highly perishable materials and thus none of them remain in the present day. Children made up balls of tied-up rags or used a blown-up bladder of a pig. Another item was the “knucklebone” which was made of the ankle bones of sheep or goats. They were also popular playing items of children in the days of the Ancient Greeks. Apart from them, dolls were also in use as popular playing goods.
Apart from dolls, various kinds of balls were also in use in the Ancient Greek period. Balls were made of different materials and of different kinds. They were part of most of the Ancient Greek games and were an integral part of all the toys that were in use.
Dolls: Popular Ancient Greek Playing Item
The Ancient Greek children used many items for playing but none of them were as popular as the doll. Of course, there were rattles, little clay animals, four-wheeled horses that could be pulled on a string, and yo-yo, but the most widespread were the terracotta dolls. Children played with small pottery figures and the dolls were mainly made of rags, wood, wax, and clay. Some dolls also had movable arms and legs. Hoops were also very popular and there was the “hobby horse” which was a “pretend horse” made from a stick.
Dolls were the most popular toys to be used by the Ancient Greeks. They have been vastly depicted in the inscriptions, paintings, and artworks that have been derived from the Ancient Greek period. Their usage was primarily meant for children, but in some cases, clay dolls were an important art and craft use as well.
Some of the Children’s Games from Ancient Greece
The Ancient Greeks also played games that did not involve much physical activity. Some of them were marbles, dice, checkers, and knucklebones. The Ancient Greek version of checkers was similar to the current game of backgammon. In fact, it is derived from the Ancient Greek checkers which involved a board, stones, and dice.
Importance of Playing: The Ancient Greek Approach
The importance of playing in Ancient Greece was immense. It can be marked by the following words of Neils- “We are fortunate that alongside vases and terra-cotta statues that show images of children at play, we have the extent toys themselves, which indeed closely resemble those made twenty-five hundred years later.” An exhibition on Ancient Greek toys will contain a grave stela of a girl with her doll and pet goose and display ancient dolls with movable arms and legs, a rattle in the form of a pig, and pull toys, to name a few. It also would display a lekythos or flask showing girls spinning tops, displayed alongside an actual ancient top.
The Ancient Greeks used toys and the games they played were amazingly similar to children’s toys and games of the present times. Some items that have particular resonance with modern childhood include yo-yo, hoops, seesaws, push carts, swings, and dice. All of the above look almost exactly the same as the present version. All this gives us various kinds of toys that children played with in those days.
In Ancient Greece, children from elite and rich Greek families had a greater assortment of toys, while those from poorer families were expected to work for the family at a much younger age. Thus they practically had no childhood and no leisure to play with toys. Evidence also shows that the Ancient Greeks kept pets such as dogs, pigs, tortoises, and caged birds.
Toys were an integral part of the childhood of every Ancient Greek household. Their urge for playing and taking part in certain games made them attracted to toys and clay idols which used to give the kids joy and relief. As mentioned earlier, there were a number of playing goods ranging from dolls, yo-yos, balls, and hoops. All of them were made of different materials and were used differently. But another theme needs to be pointed out. It is that despite everything, this practice of using toys for fun in childhood was essentially an elite feature in the days of the Ancient Greeks. The children from poor and destitute households had no time to engage in such fun acts. From a very tender age, it was their responsibility to look after the household and search for work. Thus their childhood was very different and was dependent entirely on hard work. Thus, in conclusion, it can be said that though toys were much in use in Ancient Greece, they were primarily a feature of the elite kids, not one of all, primarily of the few.