Plato's balls

In Phaedo, Plato gives this description of the Earth:

I found a Grecian game called episkyros (Roman harpastum) that used a softball-sized sphere, but I don’t see any talk about colors.

What is Plato talking about?

This might help:

It’s possible to read “divers colors” as referring to the Earth, not the leather balls, which may have been ordinary game balls.

Jowett’s translation (from Project Gutenberg):

I think this supports commasense’s suggestion that the colours are not intended to apply to the ball at all, but just the Earth.

(For some reason this passage does not seem to appear at all in the versions at the Internet Classics Archive, not even the plain text version, both of which seem to be very incomplete, though in different ways. :confused::mad:)

If you have the Stephanus pagination numbers, I might be able to find the passage in a more recent, printed translation (which might even have relevant annotation).

Did they play with strange dodecahedrons?

Yes, since Socrates is giving a lecture on the heavens as Platonic ideals, the brighter and clearer colors are probably those of the Earth and the ball is just a ball. But I still wonder about the ball.

The picture of the man balancing the ball in Mangetout’s link appears all over, especially in sites on the forerunners of soccer, but nobody seems to put a game to it or give a description of the ball itself. Even that site, which I’ve encountered before and has lots of information on it but hasn’t been updated since Bush 1, talks about a variety of other kinds of balls but not a large leather one.

Are the twelve leather strips cut like those that make up a flattened globe or more like a soccer ball. Soccer balls from hundreds of years ago show the latter pattern, probably because fewer stitches are needed. But the former would be interesting in the context of talking about the earth, because an unpeeled globe seems to be anachronistic.

I wish. Maybe there’s still some item of pottery out there, yet to be found (or found, but unexamined) that shows the dodecahedra in use.

Did you see the ball top right in the second bikini girls mosaic?

Those frescoes are from the Roman Empire, though, another country, and several centuries later.

The ball games played by both cultures had apparently quite a lot in common.*/Pila.html

He calls it a follis (which he elsewhere spells folis) or a small harpastum. I had thought that was a different type of ball, but some further searching says it was indeed made from leather. That could be it, or a close relative. Apparently we know a whole lot more about Roman games than Greek games, though, and even less about the balls used.