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THE HISTORY OF BOCCE BALL
The earliest record of bocce ball is a painting of two boys playing a game very similar to bocce ball, found in an Egyptian tomb dated 5200 BC. The boys were playing with rocks instead of balls.
In 600 BC the Greeks were playing it, soon teaching bocce ball to the Romans and Italy.
Bocce (also known as Bocci or Boccie) is played by throwing a small ball, called a jack (or pallino or boccino) from one end of the bocce ball court to the other. The players then take turns rolling, bowling or tossing their bocce balls in hopes of stopping as close to the jack as possible.
The goal of bocce ball has remained the same throughout the millenia, though some of the finer points have changed. The early Romans used coconuts instead of balls or rocks, for example.
Bocce ball became all the rage in Europe when introduced there, so much so that two kings prohibited the game of bocce ball altogether, believing that it hindered the military as they were playing bocce ball instead of practicing archery and other military battle skills.
The Republic of Venice publicly condemned the game of bocce ball, laying heavy fines on those caught playing or even sending players to prison. Even the Catholic Church banned the game as a gambling game.
But while most of Europe was condemning bocce ball, Great Britain was having a ball with this newfangled sport. Queen Elizabeth the First was an avid fan. The game was played on shortly cropped grass, similar to a golf green.
Bocce ball was a favored game of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the revolutionary who brought unity to Italy. Not long after his death, the first Bocce Olympiad took place in 1896 in Athens, Greece.
In the 1900’s, Italian immigrants brought the game of bocce ball to the United States. It’s been known by many names: bocce ball, lawn bowling, bowls, nine pins, skittles, and petanque. As beloved today as it was in early times, it’s now an international sport.