The Birth of Fortuna: Origins of Lotteries and Raffles

Jun 30, 2023 | Historical Lotteries, The Origins of Lotteries

Welcome, history buffs and curious minds, to another fascinating journey through time! Today, we embark on a captivating exploration into the origins of lotteries and raffles, tracing their roots back to ancient civilizations. Join me as we unravel the story behind the birth of Fortuna, the goddess of luck and fortune, and her enduring influence on these games of chance.


The Dawn of Fortuna

To understand the origins of lotteries and raffles, we must first delve into the ancient world, where belief in the capricious nature of fate was deeply ingrained. In ancient Rome, the goddess Fortuna held a prominent place in the hearts of the people. She was worshipped as the bestower of luck, prosperity, and abundance.

Fortuna’s influence extended beyond divine reverence, permeating various cultural practices, including the development of games centered around chance. The Romans believed that by partaking in these games, they could seek the favor of Fortuna herself, potentially altering the course of their lives.


Lotteries in Ancient China

Yet, the roots of lotteries stretch even further back, finding their early beginnings in ancient China. Approximately 2,200 years ago, during the Han Dynasty (circa 205 BC), the Chinese employed a lottery-like game known as “Keno” to fund the construction of the Great Wall. Keno involved selecting numbers on a ticket, with winners determined by the drawing of numbers from a pot. This game served as both an entertaining pastime and a practical means of financing public endeavors.


Raffles and the Renaissance

Fast-forwarding to the vibrant Renaissance period, we witness the emergence of raffles as a popular method to raise funds for charitable causes. In 1445, the Belgian town of Bruges hosted one of the earliest recorded raffles, aimed at supporting the impoverished and destitute. The prize on offer? A sumptuous tapestry, enticing individuals to purchase tickets in the hopes of securing a win.

The appeal of raffles as a charitable endeavor spread rapidly throughout Europe. These events brought communities together and offered a glimmer of hope for those seeking a chance to change their circumstances. The combination of social impact and the thrill of potential winnings made raffles a resounding success.


Lotteries and Colonial America

Lotteries crossed the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, leaving their indelible mark on Colonial America, where they played a pivotal role in shaping the nation’s early days. In the 18th century, numerous colonies established lotteries to finance crucial infrastructure projects such as the construction of roads, bridges, and public buildings.

A notable milestone in this era occurred in 1612 when Jamestown, Virginia, introduced the first recorded colonial lottery, aiming to generate funds for the survival of the nascent settlement. These lotteries rapidly became a common practice, fostering the growth and development of the American colonies.


Modern-Day Lotteries

As time progressed, lotteries evolved and became more regulated. In the 20th century, many countries established national lotteries with the aim of generating revenue for public initiatives. These lotteries expanded their offerings, introducing various games and creating enormous jackpots that captured the public’s imagination.

The advent of the internet and digital technologies revolutionized lotteries. Making them accessible to a broader audience. Online lottery platforms now enable individuals from every corner of the globe to participate in international games. They can pursue their dreams of experiencing a life-altering windfall.




The birth of Fortuna, the goddess of luck, intertwined with human fascination for the whims of fate, has given rise to lotteries and raffles throughout history. From the ancient Romans seeking her blessings to the Chinese using lotteries to fund massive projects, these games of chance have remained a timeless reflection of our belief in the possibilities that luck and fortune may bring.

Today, as we participate in lotteries and raffles, we honor the legacy of those who came before us, while also contributing to noble causes and, just maybe, having our lives transformed by the touch of Fortuna’s hand. So, dear readers, as you dream big and purchase your next ticket, remember the ancient origins of these games and the powerful connection they have forged between humanity and the goddess of fortune herself.

May Fortuna smile upon you in all your future endeavors!