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Cards arrived in Europe sometime in the late 14th century, likely passing through the major port of Venice.A key piece of evidence in this theory is a 15th-century document called the "Chronicles of Viterbo," which indicates that playing cards with various numbers and suit designs arrived in Italy in 1379.These cards may have been brought by North African Moors, whose influence on southern Europe was strong at this time.But where the Moors got playing cards, or whether they invented them at all, is a good deal less clear.By about 1500, three main suit systems had evolved: Latin (including Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese); Germanic (German, Austrian, and Swiss), and French.French cards established the suit system that is most common today, featuring hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades.Originally, the king was the top-ranking card, though games began giving the highest status to the ace by the 17th century.
The French also established today’s court ranking of king, queen, and valet or knave.
This imagery would later be copied by most British and American manufacturers, and evolved into the standard characters seen on face cards today.
Playing cards evolved from a variety of gambling games established in the Middle East and Asia, including chess and backgammon.
Among the oldest known card decks is the “Marmalukes of Egypt,” a set marked with swords, cups, coins, and polo sticks.
The earliest surviving playing cards date from the 15th century, bearing images of animals, plants, birds, and flowers.
During the Medieval era, cards were associated with sorcery and black magic, and often a full deck was thrown into the fire before a witch burning.