Harpastum, also known as harpustum, was a form of ball game played in the Roman Empire. The Romans also referred to it as the small ball game. The ball used was small (not as large as a follis, paganica, or football-sized ball) and hard, probably about the size and solidity of a softball and was stuffed with feathers. The word harpastum is the latinisation of the Greek ἁρπαστόν (harpaston), the neuter of ἁρπαστός (harpastos), "carried away", from the verb ἁρπάζω (harpazo), "to seize, to snatch".
This game was apparently a Romanized version of a Greek game called phaininda (Greek: φαινίνδα), or of another Greek game called episkyros (Greek: ἐπίσκυρος). It involved considerable speed, agility and physical exertion. The two teams needed to keep the ball on their side of the field as long as they could.
Little is known about the exact rules of the game, but sources indicate the game was a violent one with players often ending up on the ground. In Greece, a spectator (of the Greek form of the game) once had his leg broken when he got caught in the middle of play.
In the Croatian town of Sinj, a Roman tombstone found in the ruins of the military camp Tilurium, near the modern day Trilj, shows a boy holding a harpastum ball in his hands. The ball that is shown on this monument has hexagonal and pentagonal patterns, similar to a modern-day football (soccer).