Something light for you today that has nothing to do with religion but which popped in my head this morning: kids toys. I haven't been spending time with kids nor indulged in my own childhood treasures (lego anyone?) but I still thought of kids toys this morning.

Archaeologists have uncovered all sorts of toys at sites in areas previously part og the ancient Hellenic territory. Many of the toys that ancient Hellenic children enjoyed were similar to toys of today. They played with rattles (platagi), tops (stromvos), hoops and pull toys as well as figurines in the shapes of animals (athyrma). The yo-yo, or something close to it, may have been created in ancient Hellas. It was made out of two terra cotta discs and was simply called a disc.

Marbles were very popular with Hellenic children. The earliest marbles (spheria) were most likely made from chestnuts and acorns but later they were made from polished stones. Another very 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 pouch. Knucklebones were popular toys because they were cheap. Almost all children could get them.

Like 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 Hellas even had moving arms and legs. Some dolls were made from ivory and glass but most were made from terra cotta. Interestingly enough, 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 that led up to a disk that could be held and moved to make the puppet dance.

Dolls we're just toys, however. Some of these dolls were used in religious rituals as well. When boys reached adulthood, they sacrificed their toys to Apollon. When a young woman was about to be married, she would offer her dolls to  Artemis as a symbolic leaving behind of her childhood. In ancient Hellas, Artemis was the Goddess whom prayers and offerings were made to surrounding childbirth and she was also the guardian of children. Most ususally she was revered in this role under the epithets 'Kourotrophos' (nurturer) and 'Lokheia' (helper in childbirth). During childbirth the ancient Hellenes also prayed to Hekate as a Goddess of women and nurturer of children, as well as Hera, the Queen of the Gods who sometimes served as a Goddess of childbirth in her capacity as Goddess of marriage.

Toys were generally given as gifts on religious festival days--kids didn't get many as they were expected to work, not play, but getting them must have been a joyous ocassion, indeed! That said, kids in ancient Hellas were quite capapble of entertaining themselves with what was around. Take this quote from Aristophanes' 'Clouds', for example:

"Why, when he was still a tyke this high, he could make clay houses at home, and carve boats, and fashion figwood carts, and he’d make frogs out of pomegranates as pretty as you please."[878 - 881]

I'll end this with a few more pictures of these toys--or artifacts displaying these toys. Have a playful day today, people. Now excuse me, I need to go find my yo-yo!

Aiora, swings



Clay figurines





Spinning tops

Pull wagons