Name in Original Language
Area Where Played
Svoura (or stromvos as it was called in antiquity) is a very ancient game. Although it is documented in various civilizations, its earliest written documentation comes from Homer’s Iliad (17.413: στρόμβον δ᾽ ὣς ἔσσευε βαλών) where Ajax of Telamon, in the course of his dual fight against Hector, turns around like a spinning top before hitting his opponent on the chest. In antiquity it was also called strovilos (στρόβιλος) and vemvix (βέμβυξ) and it was made of hard wood or clay. We have found examples of spinning tops in burial sites (e.g. in ancient Troy) and in other archaeological sites, such as the Kabeirion in Thebes, Boeotia, Greece.
Wood remained the main material for construction of spinning tops throughout later times. Σβούρα was particularly popular throughout the major part of the 20th century. Only after the 1970s did it start to decline, due mainly to the rise of other, mostly plastic, toys and to the emerging of electronic games more recently.
Svoura is a solitary game; although competition can be involved (i.e. which child will make it run around longer) it can also develop into a pastime when no other children are around. It can be carried in a pocket which turns it into something like a favourite accessory for children. It is (was) played mostly by boys, although not exclusively.
The actual toy has a conical or spindle-like shape with a very fine tip, sometimes clad in metal; this tip corresponds to a vertical axis which passes through the main body of the spinning top. It is usually painted in bright colours, and has to be set in motion on a flat and even surface by means of a thin rope, coiled around the upper part of its vertical axis. Sometimes, in the case of smaller spinning tops, motion can be set by mere abrupt turning of the fingers which hold the upper part of the axis. The top then falls into a state of gyroscopic transition and can spin around its axis for several moments or minutes.