Dice: A Medieval Pastime and Vice

Kim Rendfeld

Detail from The Garden of Earthly Delights Detail from The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch, circa 1450–1516 (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

I remember the first time I learned dice went back much further than I had thought. In the early 1980s, a high school teacher showed the class a reproduction of Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights and pointed out a backgammon board with dice.

I was surprised. For a close friend and me, this was an innocent game we played for hours while listening to Duran Duran and Prince. But there it was. In hell.

I tucked this piece of information away. Fast forward a couple decades. I’m working on The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, set in eighth century Francia, and I need something for two characters to be doing when my heroine’s son walks into the room.

I settled on dice, which predate the Middle Ages and are easy for…

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