Torch: U.S. LXXI Spring 2022 | Page 21

balls. As this evolved, historians believe that music even continued to be played in the background during the Spartan pila exercises.

Now to try it out for yourselves! There are in total five different ways to play pila, one of which was included in the previous edition, episkyros. For this edition, let’s focus on two, simpler games called urania and aporrhaxis. Urania involves at least two players and one ball. First, one player throws the ball into the air as high as they can, then all players, including the thrower, rush to catch the ball as it falls down, before it touches the ground. The person who catches the ball then becomes the thrower, and so on and so forth. If the ball is not caught, the original thrower throws again and restarts that round. On the other hand, aporrhaxis can be single or multiplayer. The essence of the game is counting how many times a player can smack the ball onto the ground sequentially. The player must bounce the ball with as much force as possible and repeat once it reaches the ground. There are even versions where players can bounce the ball against walls to increase the difficulty. 

One of the most well-known ancient Roman activities and exercises was trigon. There were several common balls used in most ball games such as a follis and pila, but trigon involved a uniquely different ball historians suspect was made out of hair. The game was highly regarded and one of the most popular games at the time since it displayed a player's quick reflexes, hand-eye coordination, strength, and ambidexterity. Trigon, as one can derive from the prefix “tri-,” consists of three players and three balls. The players must stand in a triangle formation, particularly in that of an equilateral triangle, to ensure equal playing fields and opportunities. Each player has their own ball at the beginning. To play, players will throw their ball to any of the two other players. The recipient is expected to either catch the ball and throw it, to smack it with their palm, or toss it to another player. It is possible for a player to be thrown one, two, or even three balls at the same time, so dexterity and timing is key. The goal was individual pride and achievement rather than a team win. Players sought to never miss a catch or drop the ball and hoped to inflict such deductions on their opponents. If a player

misses a catch or drops the ball, they resume game play. Many Romans took pride in their trigon skills as the game was more of an opportunity to showcase one's capabilities than to defeat the other two players. The simplest analogy to trigon is a three-person, three-ball game of hot potato where players stand in a triangle, and balls can be thrown to any player at any time and speed. Have fun!

Works Cited

“A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), PA´CTIO, PHALANGAE, PILA.”  Perseus Digital Library, Accessed 19 Feb. 2022.

LacusCurtius • Greek and Roman Ball Games (Smith’s Dictionary, 1875).*/Pila.html. Accessed 19 Feb. 2022.

McDaniel, Walton.  Some Passages Concerning Ball-Games. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Accessed 19 Feb. 2022.

by Nicolette Bennett

JCL Jokes!

EXERCISE & GAMES: PILA · Spring 2022 · Torch: U.S.