Lotteries in Medieval Times

When you think of the lottery, you probably think of scratch-off games and live TV lotto drawings. However, the truth is that lotteries have a long history. They are mentioned in the Old Testament and were also held by Roman Emperors. Roman games of chance were very similar to our idea of a lottery, with guests having to pay a fee for the opportunity to win a prize. In fact, under Emperor Nero, prizes included slaves and ships.

As the Roman Empire began to decline, later Emperors more or less forgot about lotteries, but they never went away completely. In the Middle Ages, one of the first examples of lottery-like games were the commercial sweepstakes held by Italian merchants in the 15th century. Government lotteries were also used as a kind of substitute for taxation in medieval Italy, with Milan holding a lottery to organize its war against Venice.

Perhaps the earliest medieval examples of what we think of like a lottery today can be found in the Low Countries, modern-day Belgium, and the Netherlands. In the 13th century Flanders, lotteries were used to allotting spaces in markets, and certain public officials were also selected by lottery. However, lotteries in their more modern sense first appeared in Utrecht and Ghent during the 1440s as a way to raise money for fortifications. An even more ambitious lottery was held in Brussels in 1515. Over time, private lotteries came to be outlawed, and the Dutch, or “class” lottery developed. A class lottery is a lottery in which tickets are drawn in certain series and increase in value as you move up each series.

The type of lottery we call lotto dates back to 16th century Italy when Genoa chose members of the city council from the roster of 90 senators through a lottery. The public began betting on the outcome of these elections, which took place twice a year. As the demand for these games increased, the names of the senators were replaced by the numbers 1-90. This game became known as Lotto or Semenaiu and is one of the direct predecessors to modern state lotteries.

Private lotteries were common in England in the 16th century. In fact, the Virginia Company’s founding of Jamestown, Virginia, was funded by such a private lottery in 1612. These lotteries were conducted by brokers, who were appointed by the government to sell tickets by the government, and subdivided the tickets into shares. These lottery agents were in effect the first stockbrokers since these lotteries funded many business ventures. However, the first English lottery goes back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, who held the first lotteries in the 1560s to pay for public improvements and to improve her military forces. Elizabeth’s lottery amounted to a loan since the prize values equaled the amount raised.Lotteries in M