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Ground billiards is a modern term for a family of medieval European
lawn game A lawn game is an outdoor game that can be played on a lawn. Many types and variations of lawn games exist, which includes games that use balls and the throwing of objects as their primary means of gameplay. Some lawn games are historical in natur ...
s, the original names of which are mostly unknown, played with a long-handled
mallet A mallet is a tool used for imparting force on another object, often made of rubber Rubber, also called India rubber, latex, Amazonian rubber, ''caucho'', or ''caoutchouc'', as initially produced, consists of polymer A polym ...

mallet
(the '), wooden
balls A ball A ball is a round object (usually spherical of a sphere A sphere (from Greek language, Greek —, "globe, ball") is a geometrical object in three-dimensional space Three-dimensional space (also: 3-space or, rarely, tri-dim ...

balls
, a hoop (the ''pass''), and an upright skittle or pin (the ''king''). The game, which at least three cue-sports historians call "the original game of billiards", developed into a variety of modern outdoor and indoor games and sports such as
croquet Croquet (french: croquet; ( UK) or ( US)) is a sport Sport pertains to any form of Competition, competitive physical activity or game that aims to use, maintain or improve physical ability and Skill, skills while providing enjoyment ...

croquet
,
pool Pool may refer to: Water pool * Swimming pool A swimming pool, swimming bath, wading pool, paddling pool, or simply pool, is a structure designed to hold water to enable Human swimming, swimming or other leisure activities. Pools can be ...
,
snooker Snooker (pronounced , ) is a cue sport Cue sports (sometimes written cuesports), also known as billiard sports, are a wide variety of games of skill generally played with a cue stick, which is used to strike billiard balls and thereby c ...

snooker
, and
carom billiards Carom billiards, sometimes called carambole billiards, is the overarching title of a family of cue sports Cue sports (sometimes written cuesports), also known as billiard sports, are a wide variety of games of skill A game of skill or ga ...
. Its relationship to games played on larger fields, such as
hockey Hockey is a term used to denote various types of both summer and winter team sports which originated on either an outdoor field, sheet of ice, or dry floor such as in a gymnasium. There are many types of hockey. Some games make the use of ska ...

hockey
,
golf Golf is a club-and-ball sport Sport pertains to any form of competitive Competition is a rivalry A rivalry is the state of two people or groups engaging in a lasting competitive relationship. Rivalry is the "against each other" ...

golf
, and
bat-and-ball games Bat-and-ball games (or safe haven games) are field Field may refer to: Expanses of open ground * Field (agriculture), an area of land used for agricultural purposes * Airfield, an aerodrome that lacks the infrastructure of an airport * Battlef ...
, is more speculative. As a broader classification, the term is sometimes applied to games dating back to
classical antiquity Classical antiquity (also the classical era, classical period or classical age) is the period of cultural history History (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, ...
that are attested via difficult-to-interpret ancient artworks and rare surviving gaming artifacts.


History

Dating back to at least the 15th century as a tabletop game, and in recognizable form to as early as the 14th, this proto-billiards game appears to have been ancestral to
croquet Croquet (french: croquet; ( UK) or ( US)) is a sport Sport pertains to any form of Competition, competitive physical activity or game that aims to use, maintain or improve physical ability and Skill, skills while providing enjoyment ...

croquet
(19th century),
trucco Trucco (also called trucks, troco,''Oxford English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the principal historical dictionary A historical dictionary or dictionary on historical principles is a dictionary which deals not ...
(17th century; also known as trucks or lawn billiards),
pall-mall Pall-mall, paille-maille, palle-maille, pell-mell, or palle-malle (, or ) is a that was mostly played in the 16th and 17th centuries, a precursor to . History Related to (also known as lawn billiards or trucks in ) and similar games, pall-ma ...
(16th century), (15th century), and indoor
cue sports Cue sports (sometimes written cuesports), also known as billiard sports, are a wide variety of games of skill A game of skill or game of wits is a game where the outcome is determined mainly by mental or physical skill, rather than chance. Al ...
(15th century if not earlier – what is usually meant by ''billiards'' today). The location of origin is obscure, with various scholars tracing it to
medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses ...

France
,
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Alps The Alps ; german: Alpen ; it, Alpi ; rm, Alps; sl, Alpe ) are the highest ...

Italy
,
Spain , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = , national_anthem = , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 ...

Spain
, England,
Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany by population, largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inh ...

Germany
, or more than one of these areas. More exotic and earlier origins have also been proposed. Even in the late 17th to early 18th centuries, indoor billiards was essentially the same game, with smaller equipment and played on a bounded table, with or without pockets. Use of the king pin declined first in most areas, followed by the abandonment of the port arch, though many variants featured both as well as pockets, while the king survived and even multiplied in some cases, leading to such modern cue games as five-pins. Some later stick-and-ball games, including
cricket Cricket is a Bat-and-ball games, bat-and-ball game played between two teams of eleven players each on a cricket field, field at the centre of which is a cricket pitch, pitch with a wicket at each end, each comprising two Bail (cricket), bai ...

cricket
, also evolved multiple pin targets over time. Ground and table billiards were played contemporaneously, and the outdoor version remained known until at least the beginning of the 19th century; derived lawn games like
croquet Croquet (french: croquet; ( UK) or ( US)) is a sport Sport pertains to any form of Competition, competitive physical activity or game that aims to use, maintain or improve physical ability and Skill, skills while providing enjoyment ...

croquet
continue to the present day. The game's relationships to bowling,
golf Golf is a club-and-ball sport Sport pertains to any form of competitive Competition is a rivalry A rivalry is the state of two people or groups engaging in a lasting competitive relationship. Rivalry is the "against each other" ...

golf
,
hockey Hockey is a term used to denote various types of both summer and winter team sports which originated on either an outdoor field, sheet of ice, or dry floor such as in a gymnasium. There are many types of hockey. Some games make the use of ska ...

hockey
, and
bat-and-ball games Bat-and-ball games (or safe haven games) are field Field may refer to: Expanses of open ground * Field (agriculture), an area of land used for agricultural purposes * Airfield, an aerodrome that lacks the infrastructure of an airport * Battlef ...
are not entirely certain. It is clear that bowling, in its ancestral form of Skittles (sport), skittles, shares a common origin with ground billiards, as the two game types share both the basic objective, to direct a rolling ball towards one or more targets, and similar equipment, aside from the mace. Some contemporary sources depict the same game being played both with the hand and with a mace, and show a distinctive teardrop-shaped king pin design, with a rounded, wide bottom and a slender top. This pin shape suggests that it may have been the origin of the modern bottom-heavy design of bowling pins and similar skittles of various sizes used in a wide variety of games. A conical king or ''jack'', or sometimes a spherical jack or , as used in modern bowls, boules, bocce, and pétanque, has been employed in lawn-bowling games since at least as early as the 13th century in England; all these games have the same basic objective, to get as close to the jack as possible with one's own ball. Conical king pins are found in depictions and actual surviving game equipment (of carved stone) from Ancient Egypt. Later equipment was typically made of wood, sometimes also with clay, bone, or ivory pieces. The Netherlands, Dutch game , a precursor of golf dating to at least the early 13th century, seems to be intermediate between ground billiards on the one hand, and both golf and ice hockey on the other (and its name is etymologically cognate with ''golf''). It was played in a wicker-bounded court during warm weather, and on ice in the winter, like bandy. Players used maces () very similar to those shown in early ground billiards illustrations. At least one variant of it used holes in the ground, reminiscent of both golf holes and billiards pockets, instead of above-ground targets. The modern version, Kolven, or , uses a tall, flat-bottomed king pin (, 'pole, stake'). Engravings dating back to c. 1300 show a game being played that is an early variant of either ground billiards or one-on-one field hockey (assuming there was any significant difference other than game speed and vigour), sometimes within a bounded area. A similar game has survived to modern times, in the form of box hockey (which uses a flat puck in a confined space, and archways or "mouse holes" cut into wooden barriers, rather than stand-alone arches). There are hints that ground billiards may be far more ancient than the Late Medieval period. At least as early as 360 Common Era, BCE, Ancient Rome, Romans played a somewhat golf-like game called that could have degenerated to simpler, smaller-scale lawn games during the Early Middle Ages, Dark Ages. Third century BCE Ancient Greece, Greece has also been proposed. Earlier still, a bas relief dating to c. 600 BCE depicts an ancient Greek ball game, a possible ancestor of both ground billiards and field hockey, which may have been called or () because it was played with an implement shaped like a horn (, ). It appears to be basically the same as the Mediaeval Europe, Medieval European activity of c. 1300 CE. An ancient Greek game said (in Leila Dorion's and Julia Shepherd's 1928 ''History of Bowling and Billiards'') to be "analogous to billiards" was reported in Greek writings around 400 BCE, contemporary with the game's play. Billiards scholars Victor Stein and Paul Rubino conclude in ''The Billiard Encyclopedia'' that there is an unbroken chain of game evolution from very widespread prehistoric ball-and-stick games and rituals, through the civilizations of
classical antiquity Classical antiquity (also the classical era, classical period or classical age) is the period of cultural history History (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, ...
, to modern lawn and cue sports in Europe and Asia. Even polo – a cavalry-training sport with origins among the Iranic peoples of the central Asian steppes and directly attested since at least the Parthian Empire (247 BCE – 224 CE) of Ancient Persia – is essentially the same core game as field hockey or team ground billiards, but played on horseback with a longer cue-mallet. A set of gaming pieces, buried with a child dating to c. 3300 BCE in Ancient Egypt, Egypt, features stone balls, skittles, and an arch (no cue/mace was included in the recovered artifacts). Stein and Rubino, among other researchers, believe that games such as early ball-and-stick activities, chess, and many others were primarily brought into Europe from the Near East and Middle East by returning Crusaders from the 12th century onward, and that the pastimes were kept alive and evolving on that continent principally by the Priesthood (Catholic Church), Christian clergy. Ireland has also been proposed as a time and place of origin; the stick-and-ball game hurling (also called camogie, as a women's sport) dates to the 1200s there. Late medieval ground billiards is seen as the precursor of many later, more familiar outdoor and indoor games, including
croquet Croquet (french: croquet; ( UK) or ( US)) is a sport Sport pertains to any form of Competition, competitive physical activity or game that aims to use, maintain or improve physical ability and Skill, skills while providing enjoyment ...

croquet
and its variants, and table-based billiards games including
snooker Snooker (pronounced , ) is a cue sport Cue sports (sometimes written cuesports), also known as billiard sports, are a wide variety of games of skill generally played with a cue stick, which is used to strike billiard balls and thereby c ...

snooker
,
pool Pool may refer to: Water pool * Swimming pool A swimming pool, swimming bath, wading pool, paddling pool, or simply pool, is a structure designed to hold water to enable Human swimming, swimming or other leisure activities. Pools can be ...
(or pocket billiards, including nine-ball, eight-ball, etc.), pocketless
carom billiards Carom billiards, sometimes called carambole billiards, is the overarching title of a family of cue sports Cue sports (sometimes written cuesports), also known as billiard sports, are a wide variety of games of skill A game of skill or ga ...
varieties, and the hybrid pocket–carom English billiards. Ground billiards is described as "the original game of billiards" by Michael Ian Shamos in ''The Encyclopedia of Billiards'', an assessment echoed word-for-word by Stein and Rubino. Games played with Field hockey stick, crook-footed sticks and a ball have been found throughout history around the world. For example, in Inner Mongolia in modern-day China, the Daur people, Daur people have been playing ''beikou'', a game similar to modern field hockey, for about 1,000 years. Stein and Rubino also devote considerable historico-cultural analysis to the Ancient Egyptian lawn/court and board games with equipment similar to medieval European lawn billiards and to bat-and-ball games, and they speculate that for the Egyptians there may have been rich religious symbology involved. They note the resemblance of the games' ball, shooting stick, and king pin to the orb, sceptre or ceremonial mace (which Crook and flail, originally had a crook at the top like a gaming mace), and crown of imperial regalia, which later were adopted by the Roman Empire, pagan Romans and (Globus cruciger, in modified form) in turn by medieval rulers of Christendom. It is suggestive that games like ground billiards in the medieval Christian world were for centuries primarily the purview of and preserved by the clergy and the nobility, with peasant game-playing suppressed to the extent possible by many rulers, as unproductive.


Game play and equipment

The exact rules of game play, and whether these rules were consistent from region to region, are unknown. England, English rules recorded in Charles Cotton's ''The Compleat Gamester'' (1674), for an indoor version played on a billiards table, indicate that the general offensive goal of the game is to use a club-like Cue stick, cue, called the ' or ''tack'', to drive one's own Billiard ball, ball through a hoop, called the ''pass'', ''port'', ''argolis'', or ''ring'', thus earning a chance to shoot at the upright ''king pin'' or ''sprigg'', and to use defensive to thwart an opponent's ability to do likewise, e.g. by an opposing ball to an unfavorable location (still a key strategy in many cue sports and lawn games). Points were scored for touching the king pin with one's ball without knocking the pin over (which would cost the loss of a point). Games were played to a set number of points, such as five or seven, and could be between two (or sometimes more) individual competitors or doubles teams, each with one ball. Neutral were not mentioned in Cotton's work or depicted in any contemporary illustrations. Cotton's indoor version made use of Pocket (billiards), pockets in the sides of the table as , with additional scoring opportunities, and some outdoor ground-billiards courts may have used
golf Golf is a club-and-ball sport Sport pertains to any form of competitive Competition is a rivalry A rivalry is the state of two people or groups engaging in a lasting competitive relationship. Rivalry is the "against each other" ...

golf
-style holes for the same purpose. An outdoor form of the game that survived until the early 20th century was
trucco Trucco (also called trucks, troco,''Oxford English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the principal historical dictionary A historical dictionary or dictionary on historical principles is a dictionary which deals not ...
. Its rules were covered in popular works like the Victorian era, Victorian advice book ''Enquire Within upon Everything'', which also called it simply "lawn billiards" (and which covered the related game
croquet Croquet (french: croquet; ( UK) or ( US)) is a sport Sport pertains to any form of Competition, competitive physical activity or game that aims to use, maintain or improve physical ability and Skill, skills while providing enjoyment ...

croquet
separately). Trucco, in this well-documented form, was played in a round area at least in diameter by two players (or more, in two teams). The game used large, heavy balls and iron-headed maces like giant spoons which were used to toss rather than roll one's ball toward the port, by this stage a freely rotating metal ring mounted on a stake and almost flush with the ground. Scoring shots included passing one's ball through the port, and striking an opponent's ball with one's own (a or shot, in billiards terms, or in croquet called a ). Part of the strategy of this form of the game was using such shots to get close enough to the port for a shot at it to be easier (failing to go dead-center would likely result in not just a miss but rotation of the ring to an unpredictable position, or even in knocking the ring down, which was a foul with a penalty). A prior form, illustrated in an early-17th-century English painting, shows a smaller, rectangular court, and only one ball between two players. Some continental European forms did involve a king pin. The
balls A ball A ball is a round object (usually spherical of a sphere A sphere (from Greek language, Greek —, "globe, ball") is a geometrical object in three-dimensional space Three-dimensional space (also: 3-space or, rarely, tri-dim ...

balls
, mace, and other equipment for ground-billiards games were probably most commonly made of wood. ''The Complete Gamester'', covering only the indoor variant favored by the wealthy, recommended hardwood such as lignum vitae for maces, and expensive ivory for balls and other equipment, but ivory's fragility would have made it impractical for the larger-scale and more forceful outdoor version of the game. ''Enquire Within'' suggested lignum vitae or boxwood for the balls. Early king pins were sometimes made of bone. Clay was also popular for balls in such games (including lawn-bowling varieties). Some illustrations suggest port hoops made of decorative wrought iron, while others are clearly of wood, stone, or another carved substance, and later examples are thin and wiry, similar to modern croquet hoops (wickets). The nature of the mace appears to move from crude to elegant over time, with earlier illustrations showing simple hammer- or crook-like implements, with players stooping, while later woodcuts and tapestries show a long, thin device more like a golf putter, and in basic form very similar to later, and more delicate and ornate maces used for table billiards before leather-tipped straight cues became the norm in those games. Similarly, the nature of the playing court appears to have evolved, beginning as any informal patch of ground, and becoming carefully delimited courts of turf or clay bounded by low (often wicker) barriers. Trucco, as an informal game played mostly at pubs and country houses, could be played anywhere the ground was relatively flat (the conventional Victorian rules simply called for at least from the outer edge of the playing area to the ring on every side). Most woodcuts and other illustrations of ground-billiards games show two players. A few show more (typically waiting and observing on the sidelines), but it is unclear if these represent teams, doubles, individual players in a many-player game, or people waiting their turn.


Legacy

A mid-20th-century version of ground billiards (aside from the aforementioned box hockey) has been played on a 30 by 60 ft (approximately 9 by 19 m) clay court. This may have been an influence from croquet, as roque, an early-20th-century Olympic Games, Olympic variant of croquet, used a court of the same dimensions. The term "king pin" or "kingpin", which today may refer to essential components of any system, from bosses of organized crime syndicates to the main support bolt in the axle assemblies (trucks) of skateboards, appears to derive from its usage as a key component of ground billiards, early skittle bowling, and related games. The traditional green of billiards, pool, and snooker Baize, cloth represents a green lawn, and the earliest indoor table-top billiards games were played on a patch of turf brought indoors and put in a raised box, an idea first recorded in the court of King Louis XI of France (1461–1483).


Notes


References

{{Cue sports nav Ground billiards,