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ālĕa, ae, f. [of uncer. origin; Curtius asserts an obscure connection with the words for bone; Sanscr. asthi; Zend, açti; Gr. ὀστέον; Lat. os (ossis)].
- I. A game with dice, and in gen., a game of hazard or chance. There were among the Romans two kinds of dice, tesserae and tali, Cic. Sen. 16, 58. The tesserae had six sides, which were marked with I. II. III. IV. V. VI.; the tali were rounded on two sides, and marked only on the other four. Upon one side there was one point, unio, an ace, like the ace on cards, called canis; on the opp. side, six points called senio, six, sice; on the two other sides, three and four points, ternio and quaternio. In playing, four tali were used, but only three tesserae. They were put into a box made in the form of a tower, with a strait neck, and wider below than above, called fritillus, turris, turricula, etc. This box was shaken, and the dice were thrown upon the gaming-board. The highest or most fortunate throw, called Venus, jactus Venereus or basilicus, was, of the tesserae, three sixes, and of the tali when they all came out with different numbers. The worst or lowest throw, called jactus pessimus or damnosus, canis or canicula, was, of the tesserae, three aces, and of the tali when they were all the same. The other throws were valued acc. to the numbers. When one of the tali fell upon the end (in caput) it was said rectus cadere, or assistere, Cic. Fin. 3, 16, 54, and the throw was repeated. While throwing the dice, it was customary for a person to express his wishes, to repeat the name of his mistress, and the like. Games of chance were prohibited by the Lex Titia et Publicia et Cornelia (cf. Hor. C. 3, 24, 58), except in the month of December, during the Saturnalia, Mart. 4, 14, 7; 5, 85; 14, 1; Suet. Aug. 71; Dig. 11, 5. The character of gamesters, aleatores or aleones, was held as infamous in the time of Cicero, cf. Cic. Cat. 2, 5, 10; id. Phil. 2, 23, although there was much playing with aleae, and old men were esp. fond of this game, because it required little physical exertion, Cic. Sen. 16, 58; Suet. Aug. 71; Juv. 14, 4; cf. Jahn, Ov. Tr. 2, 471; Rupert. ad Tac. G. 24, 5: provocat me in aleam, ut ego ludam, Plaut. Curc. 2, 3, 75.
Ludere aleā or aleam, also sometimes in aleā: in foro aleā ludere, Cic. Phil. 2, 23, 56; Dig. 11, 5, 1: ludit assidue aleam, Poët. ap. Suet. Aug. 70: aleam studiosissime lusit, Suet. Claud. 33; so id. Ner. 30; Juv. 8, 10: repetitio ejus, quod in aleā lusum est, Dig. 11, 5, 4.
Hence, in aleā aliquid perdere, Cic. Phil. 2, 13: exercere aleam, Tac. G. 24: indulgere aleae, Suet. Aug. 70: oblectare se aleā, id. Dom. 21: prosperiore aleā uti, to play fortunately, id. Calig. 41.
Trop.: Jacta alea esto, Let the die be cast! Let the game be ventured! the memorable exclamation of Cæsar when, at the Rubicon, after long hesitation, he finally decided to march to Rome, Suet. Caes. 32, ubi v. Casaub. and Ruhnk.
- II. Transf., any thing uncertain or contingent, an accident, chance, hazard, venture, risk: alea domini vitae ac rei familiaris, Varr. R. R. 1, 4: sequentes non aleam, sed rationem aliquam, id. ib. 1, 18: aleam inesse hostiis deligendis, Cic. Div. 2, 15: dare summam rerum in aleam, to risk, Liv. 42, 59: in dubiam imperii servitiique aleam ire, fortune, chance, id. 1, 23: alea belli, id. 37, 36: talibus admissis alea grandis inest, Ov. A. A. 1, 376: periculosae plenum opus aleae, Hor. C. 2, 1, 6: M. Tullius extra omnem ingenii aleam positus, raised above all doubt of his talents, Plin. praef. § 7: emere aleam, in the Pandects, to purchase any thing uncertain, contingent, e. g. a draught of fishes, Dig. 18, 1, 8; so ib. 18, 4, 7.