The Venus Throw
The Venus Throw was considered the highest roll possible in the ancient gambling game of Tali, which was popular during the time of the Roman Empire. Although the game is no longer played often, historians have listed it as one of the earliest recorded gambling games in the world. Tali is Latin for Knucklebones, and the game received this name because players would use sheep or goat knucklebones, ground down to rectangles.
Using knucklebones was a more common practice in ancient Greece, however, and the Romans were more likely to use brass, gold, silver, wood, ivory, gems, or glass. It is possible that the game of Tali and its rules, like Venus Throw, were assimilated into the Roman culture while the Roman Empire expanded and conquered regions of Greece. These knucklebones are often considered an early version of modern day dice.
Venus Throw and The Game of Tali
To understand how the Venus Throw works, it’s important to know the rules of the game of Tali. The basic premise of the game consists of the players, which was usually a number of 5, would throw their knucklebones, also known as Astragals. The player that wins the round is the first player that successfully lands their Astragals in a certain prescribed order, which often varied in detail. For example, one of the simplest throws possible would be for a player to throw one of their Astragals into the air, followed by another, and then grabbing more off of the table, until all 5 of them had been used. The order and manner of catching the stones was different for every game, and gave every game a unique nature, although there were common orders used.
Many of the throws used in Tali received names, and were commonly used in many Tali games. For example, riding the elephant, peas in the pod, and horses in the stable are some of the recorded names. This is where the name of the Venus Throw originated, and is commonly associated with the Roman goddess Venus. Depictions of Venus playing the game of Tali can be found on Roman artefacts.
How The Venus Throw Worked
With up to 35 different throws possible during each game, it was important for the Roman players to know each outcome. The Venus Throw was the highest possible roll that could be thrown during a game of Tali, and would be achieved when each knucklebone landed on a different side. This added up to a total score of 14, which was the highest possible. The throw could either be done by hand, or through a special box known as a tritillus, where the player’s knucklebones would be placed before the start of the game.
The Venus Throw in Modern Games
Tali is still played today, with some differences. Firstly, instead of knucklebones or talus, players use jacks, which are made of metal and plastic. The core rules of the game are the same however, where players throw the jacks and hope to score the highest. The names of throws have changed over time, but the Venus Throw is still a possible outcome during a game.