Children's Games in Antiquity

Meir Bar-Ilan

The aim of this paper is to draw attention to the few cases of children's games known in Antiquity, from Biblical to Mishnaic and Talmudic eras. At the beginning there is a methodological introduction on games as part of 'childhood' in Antiquity as well as similar evidence from the ancient Near East and Greece.

A new explanation for the 'game' of Ishmael (Gen. 21:9) is offered, and there is some discussions on other games in the Bible. Later Talmudic evidence for children's games is put forward: balls, flowers, water-play, toys, pets and more.

At the end a social analysis of the evidence shows that the world of children in Antiquity was not so idealistic or innocent as one might conclude from the famous painting by Breugel. Games were part of leisure time as well as part of childhood in Antiquity.

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last updated: March 31, 1997 - June 29, 2001