Search This Blog

Saturday, October 22, 2011

names: Shah, regina, rook, 8 comyn people; schachorum ludo -ajedrez -chess

The name of the items of the game got adapted to the new lands were it was played: Persia, ISlamic kingdoms, Hebrew medieval wise people and Christian Europeans.
  • alterumque nomen mediaevale quod habetur esse quasi terminus technicus ludi. In enumeratione quae sequitur, nomen purius litteris fortibus scribitur; nomen technicum, litteris fortibus et italicis. Cuique lusori sunt:
  • rex, sive scaccus
  • regina (vel virgo, vel amazon, vel domina), sive dama (unde damicus ludus), vel fercia
  • turres, vel elephantes, sive rochi
  • episcopi (vel satellites, vel signiferi, vel cursores, vel sagittiferi), sive alfīni
  • equites
  • pedites, vel pedini, sive pedones

Rumi's poem dedicated to Shams (circa 1500=)
The Persians took from the Indians the essentials of the game -- the six different figures, the board with sixty-four squares -- and rebaptized the pieces with Persian names. This new nomenclature was to have enduring significance far beyond the East, for shah, the Persian word for "king," ultimately served as the name of the game in several European languages by way of the Latin scacchus: scacchi in Italian, Schach in German, échecs in French, and chess in English, among others.
Even in this “known” history, Yalom can deliver a surprise:
The Persian term shah mat, used in this episode, eventually came down to us as “check mate,” which literally means “the king was dumbfounded” or “exhausted,” though it is often translated as “the king died.”
some of the chess pieces took on Arabic names (al-fil for elephant, baidak for pawn, and firzan, fri or ferz for the general or vizier) while others retained their Persian labels (shah for king, rukh for rook, asp for horse).

In Europe some of the pieces gradually got new names:
  • Fers: "queen", because it starts beside the King.
  • Aufin: "bishop", because its two points looked like a bishop's mitre; In French fou; and others. Its Latin name alfinus was reinterpreted many ways
Retrieved from the excellent Carol Hamill's webpage :
Recreating Medieval Chess:  from schachorum ludo to the queen’s chess
The game spread throughout Europe in the 9th century. The earliest written European accounts are written in Latin, making reference to schachis (chessmen) with various spellings or to schachorum ludo (the game of chessmen). One word of caution, the Romans did not play chess. Their game of ludus latrunculorum is not related to chess and the Latin term schachi can refer to various game pieces including those for draughts and backgammon.
The modern game (called the new chess or the queen’s chess) belongs to the period after 1500 CE.

E = Einsiedelnpoem    CB = Carmina Burana
Table # 2   Comparitive nomenclature within Europe

Medieval Latin
various spellings
Middle English



femina, regina conjunx CB
then: regina (E)
fierge fierce
fers   (Chaucer)

alfinus, alphinus
alphicus (leper)
alfiere( standard-bearer)
aificus (‘horned head’) CB
comes, curvus(count or aged one) (E)
Vida’s poem (1547) use of terms for archer
alfin, aufyn(OF)
fou (fool)
wise man sitting in chair holding a bo
läufer (runner)

eques (E) and CB

Vida’s poem (1547) use of terms for elephant with tower
rook (Caxton)
of the kynge -  
man on horseback

(foot soldier)
comyn people(Caxton) in 8 categories

names in Germany:
Einsiedeln Poem:  Versus de scachis (Verses in Chess) Latin,  written by a German monk in Switzerland, circa 997 CE.  
   king= rex; queen= regina; bishop= comes count or traveller or  curvus aged one or crooked; knight eques; rook= rochus; pawn= pedes      

Carmina Burana Latin. poem of rhymed couplets circa. 1210
The poem indicated that the queen is placed to the right of the king.
rex; 3 names here: femina  - name of original piece - &  regina    - name of ‘queened pawn’ & conjunx (Note: the author avoids the problem of a king having two queens(); alficus "horned head"; eques; rochus & pedes. 

 Medieval Chess as played in France and England - a reconstruction
The chequered board would have been likely black and yellow or black and white.
The terms used would be in French:
     roi (king);  fierce (advisor);  alfin or fou (elephant or fool);  chevalier (knight);  roc (rook) & pion (pawn).      

The evolution of the rook – from chariot to castle
The rook was the most powerful piece on the medieval chessboard. The term ‘rukh’ sounds like roka (boat ) used in the Ganges valley and like rukhkh the Arabic term for "the horseman who is commander of the army" In Persian rukh means war chariot. The abstract curved flat piece used by Arab chess players would have left plenty of room for Europeans to decide for themselves, what the rook represents.
The European rook took many forms. In the Charlemage chessmen set, (circa 1080) the rook is carved as a chariot with driver and horses. The Lewis chessmen of the mid 1100’s have rooks that resemble soldiers each has a helmet, shield and sword. Alfonso X’s The Book of Games (1283) describes the rook as "made wide and stretched because they resemble the ranks of soldiers". Cessolis (circa 1300) calls them "vicars or envoy’s of the king" (Yalom, p.70). In the Latin poem, Scacchia Ludusof 1537, by Vida, the rooks are described as "warring towers borne upon the backs of elephants" (Parlett p.304) By the mid 16th century the rook is represented by the tower alone, (Hammond p. 107).

A French translation of De ludo scachorum by Jacques de Cessoles (various spellings) was done by Jehan de Vignay in 1380. This French translation was used as the basis of Caxton’s very important English translation discussed later. In French the game was called: eschès, and later échecs.
The Latin term scacchi and the term échecs could also be applied to game pieces in general such as in draughts, tables or merels. (Parlett p.300). Caution such be used when reading period documents. Many references that appear to discuss chess could be related to some other game, (this is especially important with reference to Scandinavian sources).
The pieces: roy, roi (king); fierce or fierge (advisor), later dame (queen); alfin, aufyn or fol , in modern French fou (fool ); chevalier (knight); roc by 17th c. this became tour (castle) & pion (pawn)

Caxton’s Game and Playe of the Chess: a moral treatise on the duties of life. - first published 1474
The bulk of this work is a translation of the French translation (Jehan de Vignay 1380) of the Latin work
De ludo scachorum by Jacques de Cessoles (various spellings) written in Italy. This is the second non-religious book to be printed in the English language (Golombek p. 63) and it was very popular. At one time two hundred codices could be found in the various public libraries of Europe. It includes a description of how each piece ought to appear an how that class of people ought to behave.
The terms, and descriptions used include:
kynge, sitting on chair, clothed in purple "betokens virgyns and damesels"
quene, (moves on own colour) sitting on chair clothed in gold with fur
alphyn (limited elephant-type moves) "betokenyth wise men" (Caxton) sitting on chair
note: that this is note the same as the standard bearer (Cesssolis) or the fol (de Vignay)
knyght, gentlemen, sitting on horse
rook "vicaires and legats of the king" sitting on a horse same description as used in the original by Cessolis
comyn people each pawn is associated with a category of trades people
1 labourers and workmen 2 smyths 3 notaries, advocates drapers cloth makers 4. merchants money changers 5 physicians apothacaries, 6 tavern keepers 7 guards and "keepers of the city" 8 "ribaulder, disepleyar and currours" - loosely translated as "irregular retainers, and displayers and cursers.
Note that the modern bishop piece called alphyn is described as representing a wise man and the rook represents a legit of the king.

No comments: