Ludus latrunculorum/latrunculi/latrones (“the game of brigands”, from latrunculus, diminutive of latro, mercenary or highwayman) is a Roman game of strategy for 2 players like Chess or Draughts. Latrunculi may be a variant of earlier Greek games such as Petteia, pessoí, psêphoi, poleis and pente grammaí, which are referenced in Homer‘s time. According to Plato these games come from Egypt. The first Roman mention of Latrunculi is by the Roman author Varro (116–27 BC), he mentions the game in passing in his book on the Latin language, comparing the grid on which it is played to the grid used for presenting declensions. Latrunculi mentioned in the 1st-century AD panegyric verse Laus Pisonis. As well as writers such as Martial and Ovid; they provide a small glimpse at how the game is played in some of their passages from their works.

A game, excavated at Stanway Essex, has been identified by scholars as possibly being an example of latrunculi. If it is then it is possible there was a second piece other than the ‘soldiers’ used in the game, and this has been interpreted by some reconstructions as a piece representing a “Dux” (leader) or “Aquila” (eagle). Others believe that the game may instead be a tafl game, such as fidhcheall or gwyddbwyll, since there is no evidence for an extra piece other than the latrones or pessoi in any of the ancient Greek and Roman games.


Rules of Ludus Latrunculorum