Ephesdrismos girls

Terracotta group of two girls playing a game known as ephedrismos, Hellenistic period (400-301 BCE), Ancient Greece. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Rogers Fund, 1907.

How long have girls played games?

Some of the earliest evidence of games specifically for girls comes from Ancient Greece. This terracotta statuette features two girls, one carrying another, thought to illustrate the game of ephedrismos. In the game, a stone would be placed upright on the ground. Girls would take turns throwing balls or pebbles at the stone from a distance, though we aren’t quite sure who would win the game. The loser would have her eyes covered, and had to carry the winner on her back until she found and touched the stone.

There were probably many variations of this game, yet nearly all of the forty statues that depict ephedrismos are similar to this one. Other depictions of the game, on vases and in larger statues, show boys and mythological creatures playing ephedrismos. Yet nearly all of these objects were found in the graves of women or girls from the same time period, so we know that ephedrismos was very popular with girls during the late fourth century BCE and may have had some kind of ritual significance.

Could the game have something to do with being engaged? Or was it like school games played today, with girls trying to tell who would be the first to find love or get married?

Whatever the purpose, this object showcases that girls have been gamers for far longer than we ever thought. I found it while visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art after our Gamer Girl exhibition launched, and I was so excited to see such an ancient portrayal of girls gaming. This statuette – and many other depictions that I’ve found – showcase that the history of girls and gaming is far more complex than we could have ever imagined.

It also shows that girls love to have fun, and ephedrismos was one of the many ways that they played and socialized. I can just picture groups of girls playing ephedrismos in their courtyards or the streets of ancient Greek cities, much like I played with my friends as a child.

– Tiffany Rhoades
Program Developer
Girl Museum, Inc.

This post is part of our 52 Objects in the History of Girlhood exhibition. Each week during 2017, we explore a historical object and its relation to girls history. Stay tuned to discover the incredible history of girls, and be sure to visit the complete exhibition to discover the integral role girls have played since the dawn of time.

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