Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Faience polyhedron inscribed with letters of the Greek alphabet

Period:
Mid Imperial
Date:
2nd–3rd century A.D.
Culture:
Roman
Medium:
Faience
Dimensions:
Width (Point to point, greatest): 2 11/16 in., 7.2oz. (6.8 cm, 204.9g) Width (Point to point ,smallest): 2 1/2 in. (6.3 cm) Width (Side to side, greatest): 2 3/16 in. (5.6 cm) Width (Side to side, smallest): 2 3/16 in. (5.5 cm)
Classification:
Miscellaneous-Faience
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1937
Accession Number:
37.11.3
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 171
A number of polyhedra made in various materials are known from the Hellenistic and Roman periods. They may have been used in conjunction with an oracle inscribed on a pillar set up in a public place. The polyhedron was thrown in order to choose a letter at random. One consulted the inscription to find the matching letter and read the oracle's response. There would be twenty oracular messages, each beginning with a letter of the alphabet that corresponded to one side of the dice.
Richter, Gisela M. A. 1937. "Accessions of Greek and Roman Antiquities." Bulletin of the Metropolian Museum of Art, 32 (7): p. 176.

Bodel, John P. and Stephen Tracy. 1997. Greek and Latin Inscriptions in the USA: A Checklist. p. 195, Rome: The American Academy in Rome.

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