Tracing the origins of backgammon takes us on a journey through ancient civilizations, illustrating its rich history and the cultural significance it has carried through the ages. Let’s delve into where backgammon originated and explore its fascinating ancient roots.

The Ancient Beginnings of Backgammon

Backgammon is one of the oldest known board games, with archaeological evidence pointing to its origins over 5,000 years ago. The earliest form of the game was discovered in Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq, around 3000 BC. This version, known as the “Royal Game of Ur,” shares striking similarities with contemporary backgammon, showcasing the enduring appeal of the game.

Backgammon in Ancient Civilizations

Various ancient civilizations have contributed to the development and proliferation of backgammon. Here is a brief overview:

  • Mesopotamia: As mentioned, Mesopotamia is considered the birthplace of backgammon. Archaeologists unearthed boards and game pieces in the Royal Cemetery at Ur, highlighting the game’s importance in Sumerian culture.
  • Ancient Egypt: The Egyptians played a game called “Senet,” which had significant religious connotations and was often included in tombs for the afterlife. While different from backgammon, Senet influenced board game designs and mechanics.
  • Rome: The Romans played “Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum,” which eventually evolved into “Tabula,” a game more closely resembling modern backgammon. It was popular among Roman soldiers and civilians alike.

Evolution and Spread Across Cultures

From its origins in Mesopotamia, backgammon spread to Persia, where it was known as “Nard” or “Nardshir.” Persian influence significantly shaped the game, introducing rules and strategies still in use today. The game then traveled westward, reaching Byzantine and Arabic cultures, further cementing its place in history.

In medieval Europe, the game was adopted and adapted, becoming known as “Tables” in England. The French referred to it as “Trictrac,” and it was universally recognized as a strategic and aristocratic pastime. By the 17th century, the name “backgammon” emerged in England, derived from the Middle English words “baec” (back) and “gamen” (game).

Key Historical Milestones

Period Region/Culture Significant Development
3000 BC Mesopotamia Earliest form discovered (Royal Game of Ur)
3100 BC Egypt Senet gains popularity
1st Century AD Rome Tabula, precursor to modern backgammon
6th Century AD Persia Introduction of Nard
16th-17th Century Europe Evolution into modern backgammon


Understanding where backgammon originated requires an exploration of various ancient cultures and their contributions. From the sands of Mesopotamia to the empires of Rome and Persia, backgammon’s rich history is a testament to its timeless appeal and strategic depth. This ancient game continues to captivate players around the world, bridging millennia of human history and culture.