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THE PASSATELLA, AN ANCIENT ROMAN GAME

A game enjoyed by ancient Roman plebeians, patricians and intellectuals such as Cicero, Horace and Catullus, the passatella was so popular that it remained in vogue for centuries, even to this day. Gathered in groups, participants used to elect a “ruler” (usually with a dice), a captain of adventure who was giving wine to those who wanted; no one could escape and no one could complain if he had not been drinking. Among the Romans the game took place smoothly and everyone enjoyed taunting those who drank too much and those who did not drink at all. In the Middle Ages the game became more truculent, often leading to fights and stabbings. All this despite the obligation for the “ruler” to maintain order and uttering sermons to the participants. Even today, almost in a clandestine manner, the passarella is practiced in many taverns across the city’s working-class suburbs.

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