It’s ironic that hopscotch has come to be known as a little girl’s game, because it couldn’t have a more masculine pedigree. The first hopscotch courts were used in military training exercises in ancient Britain during the early Roman Empire. Footsoldiers wearing field packs and full body armor ran through courts 100 feet long, much as football players run through truck tires today.
Imitating the soldiers, Roman children drew their own smaller courts and added a scoring system, which has been preserved remarkably well for more than a thousand years as the game has spread to France (where it’s called “Marelles”), Germany (“Templehupfen”), the Netherlands (“Hinkelbaan”), India (“Ekaria Dukaria”), and even Vietnam (“Pico”) and Argentina (“Rayuela”).
Today’s children still draw their hopscotch courts with the word “London” at the top, without knowing that they’re representing the Great North Road, a 400-mile Roman road from Glasgow to London that was frequently used by the Roman military.
The appropriate word here is “Bleeaagh.” In 897, Pope Stephen VI dug up the decomposing body of his predecessor and put it on trial for violating church law. Formosus, who had been dead for nine months, was found guilty and buried again. Rome turned against Stephen, who was eventually strangled in prison. It’s known as the cadaver synod or, in Latin, the “synodus horrenda.”