(σφαῖρα). (1) A ball. Ballplaying was a very favourite occupation among both Greeks and Romans, though regarded less as a game than as an exercise for strengthening the muscles and cultivating suppleness of limb. The earliest mention of such an exercise is found in two passages of the Odyssey (vi. 100; viii. 370). In the second passage, ball-tossing is an adjunct of the dance, and this choric ball-play was very popular at Sparta (Athen. i. 24 b), and long survived. In the Athenian gymnasia a special room (σφαιριστήριον) was devoted to this and similar exercises with balls. The practice was introduced at Rome only in the later days of the Republic ( Sat.ii. 2 Sat., 10), but when once established it took a strong hold on persons of all classes and of all ages—old men as well as boys adopting it (Seneca, De Brev. Vit. 13; Sueton. Aug.83; Pliny , Epist. iii. 1, 8).
The different kinds of balls in use were as follows: (
The following are the principal technical terms used in playing ball: διδόναι, βάλλειν, ἀφιέναι,
Games at Ball (σφαιρομαχίαι). (
(b) Harpastum (or, by the older name, Pheninda; in Athen. and Eustath. φαινίνδα: in Clem. Alex. φενίνδα: in Etym. Mag. φεννίς, φενίνδα, φενακίνδα). This game cannot with certainty be reconstructed, but the following seems to us an outline most consistent with our authorities. (Galen, περὶ τῆς σμικρᾶς σφαίρας: Sidon. Apoll. v. 17; Mart.iv. 19; vii. 32; xiv. 48; Athen. i. p. 25; Eustath. l. c.; Poll.ix. 105). There were clearly two sides, for Galen lays stress on the fact that there is emulation (φιλοτιμία), which exercises the ψυχή, as well as movements which exercise the limbs and the eye: there are presumably base-lines as goals, without which it is hard to understand what he says about generalship (στρατηγία), and positions won and lost. The ground was then probably rectangular, the two ends being base-lines, and it was divided by a line in the centre (
(c) Trigon. In this favourite game of the Romans there were no “sides,” but each played for himself; still it was a legitimate game, played for winning and losing. The following description may, as it seems to us, best meet the accounts which we have: There were three players standing in the form of an equilateral triangle. Each player had one ball to start with, and played for his own score. He would wish both his fellowplayers to miss their strokes, and drop the ball as often as possible. He might send his ball to either player (presumably there was some rule about sending it fairly within their reach), and he might do so either by catching the ball which came to him and throwing it, or by “fiving” it, so as either to strike it back to the sender (
（d) In very late times (i. e. in the Byzantine Period) a game of ball was played on horseback bearing a strong resemblance to our modern “polo” (Cinnamus, Hist.vi. 4). It was confined chiefly to princes and the higher nobles, who took sides and struck at a leather ball with a sort of curved stick provided with a catgut network, the object being for each party to drive the ball over the opponents' base-line (πέρας).
There is an interesting wall-inscription from Pompeii which has been variously interpreted. It is an announcement of a ball-game, and reads as follows, the punctuation being that preferred by the present writer:
Amianthus, Epaphra, Tertius ludant cum Hedysio. Iucandus Nolanus petat. Numerent Citus et Iacus. Amianthus.
In this game, Hedysius is the
See Becq de Fouquières, Les Jeux des Anciens (1873); Marquardt, De Sphaeromachiis Veterum (1876); and Grasberger, Erziehung und Unterricht, pp. 88 foll. (1880).
(2) A balloting-ball; employed as a means for selecting what judge should try a cause, and prevent the packing of the bench against the interest of either party. For this purpose a certain number of balls, with the names of different judges inscribed on them, were put into a box, and thence drawn out by lot ( Prop.iv. 11Prop., 20; Ascon. Argument. Milon.).
(3) An effigy made out of old pieces of cloth stuffed with hay and employed to try the temper of some animals, bulls and buffaloes, when baited; or to infuriate them if they appeared tame and
Harry Thurston Peck , Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (Trustees of Tufts University, New York) [word count] [harpers_cls_ant16].