Dice, Roman period, Ivory, 30 BCE – 330 CE
1 cm square (3/8 in. square)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Wall painting: Osteria della Via di Mercurio, Pompeii
Many Romans enjoyed playing at dice and often gambled, sometimes paying out huge sums: according to Suetonius, biographer of the Roman emperors, the emperors Augustus, Nero and Claudius were passionate dicers, and Claudius even wrote a book about the rules of gambling with dice. Perhaps most famously, Julius Caesar – himself an avid gambler – was said to have proclaimed, on his decision to cross the Rubicon and march upon Rome, alea iacta est – "the die has been cast" – a metaphor taken straight from the Roman passion for gambling with dice.