Greek Toys

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Just like children of today, children in ancient Greece loved to play with a variety of toys. Archaeologists have uncovered all sorts of toys at sites in Greece. One popular toy was knucklebones. These were made from the ankles of sheep and goats. Players threw knucklebones like dice and often carried them around in their own pouch. Knucklebones were popular toys because they were cheap. Almost all children could get them. They may sound gross to modern-day children (or adults!), but children in ancient Greece loved them.

rattlesMany of the toys that Greek children enjoyed were similar to toys of today. They played with rattles, tops, and pull toys. The yo-yo, or something close to it, may have been created in Greece. It was made out of two terra cotta discs and was simply called a disc.

 

greek-dollLike today, there were also toys meant just for girls and others meant just for boys. Boys often played with toy chariots, and girls usually played with dolls. Some dolls from ancient Greece even had moving arms and legs! Some dolls were made from ivory and glass, but most were made from terra cotta. Some were even made with human hair! Others were made of rags, clay or wax. Some had holes in the top of their heads for a string. We can’t be sure, but maybe the string was used to make the dolls move and dance! Some of these dolls may have been used in religious rituals as well. When a young woman was about to be married, she would offer her dolls to the goddess who protected her in her childhood. This was usually the goddess Artemis.

They’re not as exciting as video games, but marbles were very popular with Greek children. The earliest marbles were most likely made from chestnuts and acorns. Later, they were made from polished stones.

You might wonder how children came to have these toys. Usually, they were given as gifts on the important feast days. Most modern-day children have many more toys than Greek children had. Children in ancient times were expected to work. That didn’t leave much time for play, so they didn’t have that many toys.

So, let’s say you find yourself going back in time to ancient Greece. You need a gift for your friend, Anaxagorus. Here are some ideas:

• Stromvos: a spinning top. Greek children loved these!
• Platagi: a rattle. Rattles in the shape of a pig were especially popular.
• Athyrma: a figurine in the shape of an animal, usually a pig or horse.
• Spheria:  marbles.

Most of these toys sound pretty boring to modern children. Even simple toys could be decorated to make them more interesting. The toys of rich children were usually nicer than the toys of poor children. Remember that the Greeks simply used what they had. If they had had the means to create and xBox, they would have done it! Children in ancient Greece enjoyed their toys just as much as you enjoy yours.