The whole education of a Greek youth was divided into three parts: grammar,
music, and gymnastics (γράμματα, μουσική,
p. 122E; Clitoph. p.
407 B; Plut.
100.17), to which Aristotle
8.3, p. 1337) adds a fourth, the art of drawing;or
painting. gymnastics, however, were thought by the ancients a matter of such
importance, that this part of education alone occupied as much time and
attention as all the others.put together; and while the latter necessarily
ceased at a certain period of life, gymnastics continued to be cultivated by
persons of all ages, though those of an advanced age naturally took lighter
and less fatiguing exercises than boys and youths. (Xen. Sympos. 1.7
; Lucian, Lexiph.
5.) The ancients, and more especially the Greeks, seem to have been
thoroughly convinced that the mind could not possibly be in a healthy state,
unless the body was likewise in perfect health, and no means were thought,
either by philosophers or physicians, to be more conducive to preserve or
restore bodily health than well-regulated exercise. The word
“gymnastics” is derived from γυμνός
(naked), because the persons who performed their
exercises in public or private gymnasia were either entirely naked, or
merely covered by the short χιτών.
authorities in Wachsmuth, Hellen. Alterth.
vol. ii. p. 354,
2nd edit.; and Becker-Göll, Charikles,
vol. ii. p.
The great partiality of the Greeks for gymnastic exercises was productive of
infinite good: they gave to the body that healthy and beautiful development
by which the Greeks excelled all other nations, and which at the same time
imparted to their minds that power and elasticity which will ever be admired
in all their productions. (Lucian, de Gymnast.
plastic art in particular must have found its first and chief nourishment in
the gymnastic and athletic performances, and it may be justly observed that
the Greeks would never have attained their pre-eminence in sculpture had not
their gymnastic and athletic exhibitions made the artists familiar with the
beautiful forms of the human body and its various attitudes. (Cf. Curtius,
ii. p. 68.) Respecting the advantages
of gymnastics in a medical point of [p. 1.926]
remarks are made at the end of this article. But we must at the same time
confess that at a later period of Greek history, when the gymnasia had
become places of resort for idle loungers, their evil effects were no less
striking. The chief objects for which they had originally been instituted
were gradually lost sight of, and instead of being places of education and
training they became mere places of amusement; and among other injurious
practices to which they gave rise, the gymnasia were charged, even by the
ancients themselves, with having produced and fostered that most odious vice
of the Greeks, the παιδεραστία.
40, vol. ii. p. 122, ed.
Wyttenb.: compare Aristot. Pol. 8.4
Plut. Phil. 3
; Quint. Inst. 1.11
Gymnastics, in the widest sense of the word, comprehended also the agonistic
and athletic arts (ἀγωνιστικὴ
); that is, the art of those who
contended for the prizes at the great public games in Greece, and of those
who made gymnastic performances their profession [ATHLETAE
]. Both originated in the gymnasia, in so
far as the athletae as well as the agonistae were originally trained in
them. The athletae, however, afterwards formed a distinct class of persons
unconnected with the gymnasia; while the gymnasia, at the time when they had
degenerated, were in reality little more than agonistic schools, attended by
numbers of spectators. On certain occasions the most distinguished pupils of
the gymnasia were selected for the exhibition of public contests [LAMPADEPHORIA], so that on the whole there was
always a closer connexion between the gymnastic and agonistic than between
the gymnastic and athletic arts. In a narrower sense, however, the gymnasia
had, with very few exceptions, nothing to do with the public contests, and
were places of exercise for the purpose of strengthening and improving the
body, or, in other words, places for physical education and training; and it
is chiefly in this point of view that we shall consider them in this
Gymnastic exercises among the Greeks seem to have been as old as the Greek
nation itself, as may be inferred from the fact that gymnastic contests are
mentioned in many of the earliest legends of Grecian story; but they were,
as might be supposed, of a rude and mostly of a warlike character. They were
generally held in the open air, and in plains near a river, which afforded
an opportunity for swimming and bathing. The Attic legends indeed referred
the regulation of gymnastics to Theseus (Paus.
), but according to Galen it seems to have been about the time
of Cleisthenes that gymnastics were reduced to a regular and complete
system. Great progress, however, must have been made as early as the time of
Solon, as appears from some of his laws which are mentioned below. It was
about the same period that the Greek towns began to build their regular
gymnasia as places of exercise for the young, with baths, and other
conveniences for philosophers and all persons who sought intellectual
amusements. There was probably no Greek town of any importance which did not
possess its gymnasium. In many places, such as Ephesus, Hierapolis, and
Alexandria in Troas, the remains of the ancient gymnasia have been
discovered in modern times. These, however, all belong to a comparatively
late date, as does also that recently discovered at Pergamum (Conze,
Ausgr. z. Pergamon,
Berlin, 1880). The earliest remains
are those of the gymnasium at Olympia, which cannot be earlier than the end
of the fourth century B.C. (Bötticher, Olympia,
p. 363 ff.). Athens possessed three great gymnasia,--the
), Cynosarges (Κυνόσαργες
), and the Academia (Ἀκαδημία
); to which, in later times, several
smaller ones were added. All places of this kind were, on the whole, built
on the same plan, though, from the remains, as well as from the descriptions
still extant, it is evident that there were many differences in their
detail. We have no detailed account of a gymnasium of the best period. The
most complete description of a gymnasium which we possess, is that given by
), which, however, is very
obscure, and at the same time defective, in so far as many parts which seem
to have been essential to a gymnasium are not mentioned in it. Of the
numerous plans which have been drawn, according to the description of
Vitruvius (cf. Bluesgen, De Gymnasii Vitruviani palaestra,
Bonn, 1863; Guhl u. Koner, Leben der Griechen u.
2 p. 112 ff.;
&c.), that of W. Newton, in his translation of Vitruvius, vol. i.
fig. 52, may here be given with a few alterations, although some of the
details are open to criticism (cf. Becker-Göll,
Plan of Gymnasium.
The peristylion (D) in a gymnasium, which Vitruvius incorrectly calls
palaestra, is in the form of a square or oblong, and is two stadia (1200
feet) in circumference. It consists of four porticoes. In three of them (A B
C) spacious exedrae with seats were erected, in which philosophers,
rhetoricians, and others, who delighted in intellectual conversation, might
assemble. A fourth portico (E), towards the south, was double, so that the
interior walk was not [p. 1.927]
(exposed to bad weather. The
double portico contained the following apartments:--The Ephebeum (F), a
spacious hall with seats in the middle, and one-third longer than broad,
destined for the exercises of youths. On the right is the Coryceum (G), used
for exercises with the sack (κώρυκος
perhaps the same room which in other cases was called Apodyterium; then came
the Conisterium (H) adjoining, where the body was sprinkled with dust; and
next to the Conisterium, in the returns of the portico, is the cold bath,
(I). On the left of the
Ephebeum is the Elaeothesium, where persons were anointed by the aliptae
(K). Adjoining the Elaeothesium is the Frigidarium (L), or more probably the
Tepidarium, where there was a lukewarm bath. From thence is the entrance to
the Propnigeum (M), on the returns of the portico; near which, but more
inward, behind the place of the frigidarium, is the vaulted sudatory (N), in
length twice its breadth, which has on the returns the Laconicum (O) on one
side, and opposite the Laconicum, the hot bath (P). These are the more
essential and primitive parts of a gymnasium. But in the time of Vitruvius
important additions were made to it. On the outside three porticoes are
built; one (Q), in passing out from the peristyle, and, on the right and
left, the two stadial porticoes (R, S), of which the one (S) that faces the
north is made double and of great breadth, the other (R) is single, and so
designed that in the parts which encircle the walls, and which adjoin the
columns, there may be margins for paths, not less than ten feet; and the
middle is so excavated that there may be two steps, a foot and a half in
descent, to go from the margin to the plane (R), which plane should not be
less in breadth than 12 feet: by this means those who walk about the margins
in their apparel will not be annoyed by those who are exercising themselves.
This portico is called by the Greeks ξυστός,
because in the winter season the athletae exercised
themselves in these covered stadia. The ξυστὸς
had groves or plantations between the two porticoes, and
walks between the trees, with seats of signine work. Adjoining the ξυστὸς
(R) and double portico (S) are the
uncovered walks (U), which in Greek are called περιδ<*>μίδες,
to which the athletae, in fair
weather, go from the winter-xystus to exercise. Beyond the xystus is the
stadium (W), so large that a multitude of people may have sufficient room to
behold the contests of the athletae.
It is generally believed that Vitruvius in this description of his gymnasium
took that of Naples as his model; but two important parts of other Greek
gymnasia, the apodyterium and the sphaeristerium, are not mentioned by him.
Canina (Arch. Grec.
tav. 132, 133) gives plans of gymnasia at
Ephesus and Hierapolis, which widely differ from this.
The Gree<*>s bestowed great care upon the outward and inward
splendour of their gymnasia, and adorned them with the statues of gods,
heroes, victors in the public games, and of eminent men of every class.
Hermes was the tutelary deity of the gymnasia, and his statue was
consequently seen in most of them.
The carliest regulations which we possess concerning the gymnasia are
contained in the Laws of Solon. One of these laws forbade all adults to
enter a gymnasium during the time that boys were taking their exercises, and
at the festival of the Hermaea. The gymnasia were, according to the same
law, not allowed to be opened before sunrise, and were to be shut at sunset.
(Lex ap. Aeschin. c. Timarch.
§ 12.) Another law of
Solon excluded slaves from gymnastic exercises. (Aeschin. c.
§ 138; Plut. Sol.
.) Boys who were children of an Athenian citizen and a foreign
) were not admitted to any
other gymnasium but the Cynosarges. (Plut. Them.
.) Some of the laws of Solon relating to the management and the
superintendence of the gymnasia, show that he was aware of the evil
consequences which these institutions might produce, unless they were
regulated by the strictest rules. As we, however, find that adults also
frequented the gymnasia, we must suppose that, at least as long as the laws
of Solon were in force, the gymnasia were divided into different parts for
persons of different ages, or that persons of different ages took their
exercise at different times of the day. (Boeckh, Corp.
n. 246 and 2214.) The education of boys up to the age of
sixteen was divided into the three parts mentioned above, so that gymnastics
formed only one of them; but during the period from the sixteenth to the
eighteenth year the instruction in grammar and music seems to have ceased,
and gymnastics were exclusively pursued. In the time of Plato the salutary
regulations of Solon appear to have been no longer observed, and we find
persons of all ages visiting the gymnasia. (Plat. de Pep.
p. 452; Xen. Sympos. 2
§ 18.) Athens now possessed a number of smaller gymnasia, which are
sometimes called palaestrae, in which persons of all ages used to assemble,
and in which even the Hermaea were celebrated by the boys, while formerly
this solemnity had been kept only in the great gymnasia, and to the
exclusion of all adults. (Plat. Lys.
p. 206.) These changes,
and the laxity in the superintendence of these public places, caused the
gymnasia to differ very little from the schools of the athletae; and it is
perhaps partly owing to this circumstance that writers of this and
subsequent times use the words gymnasium and palaestra indiscriminately.
247 f.) But K. F. Hermann
§ 36) seems to have proved that the
gymnasium was never used for a place of training. (Cf.
p. 336 ff.; Grasberger,
Erziehung und Unterricht,
i. p. 244 ff.)
Married as well as unmarried women were, at Athens and in all the Ionian
states, excluded from the gymnasia; but at Sparta, and in some other Doric
states, maidens, dressed in the short χιτών,
were not only admitted as spectators, but also took part
in the exercises of the youths. Athenaeus, xiii. p. 566, asserts that the
same was the case at Chios. Married women, however, did not frequent the
gymnasia. (Plat. Legg.
Respecting the superintendence and administration of the gymnasia at Athens,
we know that Solon in his legislation thought them worthy of great
attention; and the transgression of some of his laws relating to the
gymnasia was punished with death. (But the law of Solon quoted in Aeschin.
§ 12, is of very doubtful genuineness.)
His laws mention a magistrate, called the
), who was entrusted with the whole
management of the gymnasia, and with everything connected therewith. His
office was one of the regular liturgies, like the choregia and trierarchy
], § 60;
], § 36), and was
attended with considerable expense. He had to maintain and pay the persons
who were preparing themselves for the games and contests in the public
festivals, to provide them with oil, and perhaps with the wrestlers' dust.
It also devolved upon him to adorn the gymnasium or the place where the
agones took place. (Xen. de Rep. Athen.
, § 13.) The gymnasiarch was a real magistrate, and
invested with a kind of jurisdiction over all those who frequented or were
connected with the gymnasia; and his power seems even to have extended
beyond the gymnasia, for Plutarch (Amator.
100.9, &c.) states that he watched and controlled the conduct of the
ephebi in general. He had also the power to remove from the gymnasia
teachers, philosophers, and sophists, whenever he conceived that they
exercised an injurious influence upon the young. (Aeschin. c.
§ 12.) Another part of his duties was to
conduct the solemn games at certain great festivals, especially the
), for which he
selected the most distinguished among the ephebi of the gymnasia. The number
of gymnasiarchs was, according to Libanius on Demosthenes (c.
p. 510) ten, one from every tribe. (Compare Demosth.
i. p. 50.36 c. Boeot.
], § 42.)
They seem to have undertaken their official duties in turns, but in what
manner is unknown. Among the external distinctions of a gymnasiarch were a
purple cloak and white shoes (Plut. Ant. 33
In early times the office of gymnasiarch lasted for a year, but under the
Roman emperors we find that sometimes they held it only for a month, so that
there were 12 or 13 gymnasiarchs in one year. This office seems to have been
considered so great an honour, that even Roman generals and emperors were
ambitious to hold it. Other Greek towns, like Athens, had their own
gymnasiarchs, but we do not know whether, or to what extent, their duties
differed from the Athenian gymnasiarchs. In Cyrene the office was sometimes
held by women. (Krause, Gymnastik und Agonistik d. Hellenen,
p. 179, &c.)
Another office which was formerly believed to be connected with the
superintendence of the gymnasia, is that of Xystarches (ξυστάρχης
). But it is not mentioned previous to
the time of the Roman emperors, and then only in Italy and Crete. Krause
(ib. p. 205, &c.) has shown that this office had nothing to do with
the gymnasia properly so called, but was only connected with the schools of
the athletae. (Cf. Dittenberger, de Eph.
An office which is likewise not mentioned before the time of the Roman
emperors, but was nevertheless decidedly connected with the gymnasia, is
that of Cosmetes. He had to arrange certain games, to register the names and
keep the lists of the ephebi, and to maintain order and discipline among
them. He was assisted by an Anticosmetes and two Hypocosmetae. This officer
appears only after the re-organisation of the gymnasia in the second century
B.C., when they served also as places for
intellectual instruction. (Cf. Capes, University of Athens.)
An office of very great importance, in an educational point of view, was that
of the Sophronistae (σωφρονισταί
province was to inspire the youth with a love of σωφροσύνη,
and to protect this virtue against all injurious
influences. In early times their number at Athens was ten, one from every
tribe, with a salary of one drachma per day. (Etym. M.
Their duty not only required them to be present at all the games of the
ephebi, but to watch and correct their conduct wherever they might meet
them, both within and without the gymnasium. At the time of the Emperor
Marcus Aurelius only six Sophronistae, assisted by as many Hyposophronistae,
are mentioned. (Krause, ib. p. 214, &c.)
The instructions in the palaestrae, sometimes attached to gymnasia, were
given by the Gymnastae (γυμνασταί
) and the
); at a later
period Hypopaedotribae were added. The Paedotribes was required to possess a
knowledge of all the various exercises which were performed in the gymnasia;
the Gymnastes was the superior teacher, and was expected to know the
physiological effects and influences on the constitution of the youths, and
therefore assigned to each of them those exercises which he thought most
suitable. (Galen, de Valet. tuend.
2.9, 11; Aristot. Pol. 8.3, 2
.) These teachers
were usually athletae who had left their profession, or could not succeed in
it. (Aelian, Ael. VH 2.6
; Galen, l.c.
The anointing of the bodies of the youths, and strewing them with dust,
before they commenced their exercises, as well as the regulation of their
diet, was the duty of the aliptae. [ALIPTAE
] These men sometimes also acted as surgeons or teachers.
100.1.) Galen (l.c.
2.11) mentions among the gymnastic teachers a σφαιριστικός,
or teacher of the various games at
ball; and it is not improbable that in some cases particular games may have
been taught by separate persons.
The games and exercises which were performed in the gymnasia seem, on the
whole, to have been the same throughout Greece. Among the Dorians, however,
they were regarded chiefly as institutions for hardening the body and for
military training; among the Ionians, and especially the Athenians, they had
an additional and higher object, namely, to give to the body and its
movements grace and beauty, and to make it the basis of a healthy and sound
mind. But among all the different tribes of Greeks the exercises which were
carried on in a Greek gymnasium were either mere games, or the more
important exercises which the gymnasia had in common with the public agones
in the great festivals.
Among the former we may mention, 1. The ball (σφαίρισις, σφαιρομαχία,
&c.), which was in
universal favour with the Greeks, and was here, as at Rome, played in a
variety of ways, as appears from the words ἀπόρραξις, ἐπίσκυρος, φαινίνδα
&c. (Plat. Legg.
797; compare Eustath. on Od. 8.376
9.104-107.) Every gymnasium contained one large room for the purpose of
playing at ball in it (σφαιριστήριον
Παίζειν ἑλκυστίνδα, διελκυστινδα,
or διὰ γραμμῆς,
was a game in which one boy, holding one end of a rope, tried to pull the
boy who held its other end across a line marked between them on the ground.
3. The top (βέμβηξ, βέμβιξ, ῥόμβος,
), which was as common an amusement with Greek boys as
in our own days. 4. The πεντάλιθος,
was a game with five stones, which were thrown up from the upper part of the
hand and caught in the palm. 5. Σκαπέρδα,
which was a game in which a rope was drawn through the upper part of a tree
or a post. Two boys, one on each side of the post, turning their backs
towards one another, took hold of the ends of the rope and tried to pull
each other up. This sport was also one of the amusements at the Attic
Dionysia. (Hesych. sub voce
) These few games
will suffice to show the character of the gymnastic sports.
The more important games, such as running (δρόμος
), throwing of the δίσκος
and the ἄκων,
jumping and leaping
with and without ἁλτῆρες
), wrestling (πάλη
), boxing (πυγμή
pancratium (παγκράτιον, πένταθλον,
), dancing (ὄρχησις
), &c., are described in separate articles.
A gymnasium was, as Vitruvius observes, not a Roman institution, and
Dionysius of Halicarnassus (Ant. Rom.
states that the whole ἀγωνιστικὴ
Romans, though it was practised at an early period in the Ludi Maximi, was
introduced among the Romans from Greece. Their attention, however, to
developing and strengthening the body by exercises was considerable, though
only for military purposes. The regular training of boys in the Greek
gymnastics was foreign to Roman manners, and even held in contempt. (Plut.
40.) Towards the end of the
republic many wealthy Romans, who had acquired a taste for Greek manners,
used to attach to their villas small places for bodily exercise, sometimes
called gymnasia, sometimes palaestrae, and to adorn them with beautiful
works of art. (Cic. Att. 1.4
2.14, 36.) The Emperor Nero was the first who built a public
gymnasium at Rome (Sueton. Ner.
was erected by Commodus (Herodian, 1.12, 4). But although these institutions
were intended to introduce Greek gymnastics among the Romans, yet they never
gained any great importance, as the magnificent thermae, amphitheatres, and
other colossal buildings had always greater charms for the Romans than the
For a fuller account of this important subject, which has been necessarily
treated with brevity in this article, the reader is referred to Hieronymus
Mercurialis, de Arte Gymnastica,
ed. Venice, 1573, 4th ibid. 1601; Burette, Histoire des
in the Mém. de l'Acad.
1.3; G. Löbker, Die Gymnastik der
Münster, 1835; Wachsmuth, Hellen.
vol. ii. p. 344, &100.2d ed.; Müller,
3.168-188; and especially J. H. Krause,
Die Gymnastik u. Agonistik der Hellenen,
and Dittenberger, de Ephebis Atticis,
The histories of education among the ancients, such as those of Hochheimer,
Schwarz, Cramer, and especially Grasberger, likewise contain much useful
information on the subject. [L.S
The Relation of Gymnastics to the Medical Art.
--The games of
the Greeks had an immediate influence upon the art of healing, because they
considered gymnastics to be almost as necessary for the preservation of
health as medicine is for the cure of diseases. (Hippocrates, de Locis in Homine,
vol. ii. p. 138, ed.
Kühn; Timaeus Locrensis, de Anima
p. 564, in Gale's Opusc. Mythol.
) It was for
this reason that the gymnasia were dedicated to Apollo, the god of
physicians. (Plut. Symp.
8.4.4.) The directors of these
establishments, as well as the persons employed under their orders, the
bathers or aliptae,
passed for physicians, and
were called so, on account of the skill which long experience had given
them. The directors, called παλαιστροφύλακες,
regulated the diet of the young men brought up
in the gymnasia; the sub-directors, or Gymnastae,
for their diseases (Plat. Legg.
xi. p. 916 A); and the inferiors
or bathers, aliptae,
practised blood-letting, administered clysters,
and dressed wounds, ulcers, and fractures. (Plat. Legg. iv.
p. 720 C; Celsus, de Medic. i.
1; Plin. Nat. 29.4
.) Two of these directors--Iccus, of Tarentum,
and Herodicus, of Selymbria, a town of Thrace--deserve particular notice for
having contributed to unite more closely medicine and gymnastics. Iccus, who
appears to have lived before Herodicus (Olymp.
Stephan. Byzant. s. v. Ταρας,
compare Paus. 6.10.2
), gave his chief
attention to correcting the diet of the wrestlers, and to accustoming them
to greater moderation and abstemiousness, of which virtues he was himself a
perfect model. (Plat. Legg.
viii. p. 839 E; Aelian, Ael. VH 11.3
; Id. H. A.
Plato considers him, as well as Herodicus, to have been among the inventors
of medical gymnastics. (Plat. Protag.
p. 316 E; Lucian,
de Conscrib. Hist.
§ 35, p. 626.) Herodicus,
whom Pliny (l.c.
) incorrectly calls Prodicus, lived
at Athens a short time before the Peloponnesian war. Plato says that he was
not only a sophist (Plat. Protag.
l.c.), but also a master of
the gymnasium (Id. Rep.
iii. p. 406 A), and physician (Id.
p. 448 B), and in fact he united in his own person
these three characters. He was troubled, says the same author, with very
weak health, and tried if gymnastic exercises would not help to improve it;
and having perfectly succeeded in his own case, he imparted his method to
others. Before him medical dietetics had been entirely neglected, especially
by the Asclepiadae (Id. Rep.
iii. p. 406 A). If Plato's
account may be taken literally (Phaedr.
p. 227 D), he much
abused the exercise of gymnastics, as he recommended his patients to walk
from Athens to Megara and to return immediately.1
The author of the sixth book de Morb. Vulgar.
6.100.3, vol. iii. p. 599) agrees with
Plato: “Herodicus,” he says, “caused people attacked with
fever to die from walking and too hard exercise, and many of his
patients suffered much from dry rubbing.” A short time after we
find, says Fuller (Medicina Gymnastica,
&c. Lond. [p. 1.930]
1718, 8vo), that Hippocrates
(de Vict. Rat.
iii. vol. i. p. 716), with some sort of
glory, assumes to himself the honour of bringing that method to a
perfection, so as to be able to distinguish πότερον
τὸ σιτίον κρατέει τοὺς πόνους, ἢ οἱ πόνοι τὰ σιτία, ἢ
μετρίως ἔχει πρὸς ἄλληλα,
as he expresses it. Pursuant
to this, we find him in several places of his works recommending several
sorts of exercises upon proper occasions; as first, friction or chafing, the
effects of which he explains (de Vict. Rat.
ii. p. 701), and
tells us that in some cases it will bring down the bloatedness of the solid
parts, in others it will incarn and cause an increase of flesh, and make the
part to thrive. He advises (ibid.
p. 700) walking,
of which they had two sorts, their round and straight courses. He gives his
p. 701) of the Ἀνακινήματα,
or preparatory exercises, which served to
warn and fit the wrestlers for the more vehement ones. In some cases he
advises the Πάλη,
or common wrestling (ibid.
), and the Ἀκροχειπία,
or wrestling by the hands only, without coming
close, and also the Κωρυκομαχία,
exercise of the Corycus, or the hanging ball (see Antyllus, ap. Mercur.
de Arte Gymn.
p. 123); the Χειρονομία,
a sort of dexterous and regular motion of the
hands, and upper parts of the body, something after a military manner; the
or rolling in sand; and
p. 700) we find mentioned, with some
approbation, the Ἄπειροι Ἵπποι,
by which is probably meant
galloping long courses in the open field.
As for Galen, he follows Hippocrates in this as closely as in other things,
and declares his opinion of the benefit of exercises in several places; his
second book, “De Sanitate Tuenda,” is wholly upon the use of
or the advantage of regular chafing: he
has written a little tract, Περὶ τοῦ διὰ Μικρᾶς
wherein he recommends an exercise by
which the body and mind are both at the same time affected. In his discourse
to Thrasybulus, Πότερον Ἰατρικῆς ἢ
Γυμναστικῆς Ε῎στι τὸ Ὑγιεινόν,
he inveighs against the
athletic and other violent practices of the gymnasium,
but approves of the more moderate exercises, as
subservient to the ends of a physician, and consequently part of that art.
The other Greek writers express a similar opinion; and the sense of most of
them in this matter is collected in Oribasius's Collecta
In the extant remains of Antyllus, we read of
some sorts of exercises that are not mentioned by Galen or any former
author; among the rest the Cricilasia,
as the translators by
mistake call it, instead of Cricoëlasia.
This, as it
had for many ages been disused, Mercurialis himself, who had made the most
judicious inquiries into this subject (de Arte
4to, Amstel. 1672), does not pretend to explain;
and I believe, says Freind (Hist. of Physic,
vol. i.), though
we have the description of it set down in Oribasius (Coll.
6.26), it will be hard to form any idea of what it was.
The ancient physicians relied much on exercise in the cure of the dropsy
(compare Hor. Ep. 1.2
, “Si noles sanus, curres hydropicus” ), whereas
we almost totally neglect it. (Alexander Trallianus, de
9.3, p. 524, ed. Basil.) Hippocrates (de
sect. 28, vol. ii. p. 518) prescribes for
one that has a dropsy ταλαιπωρίαι,
and he makes use of the same
word in his Epidemics, and almost always when he speaks of the regimen of a
dropsical person, implying, that though it be a labour for such people to
move, yet they must undergo it; and this is so much the sense of
Hippocrates, that Spon has collected it into one of the new Aphorisms which
he has drawn out of his works. Celsus says of this case (de
3.21, p. 152, ed. Argent.), “Concutiendum multa
gestatione corpus est.” The Romans placed great reliance upon the
curative effects of exercise ; and Asclepiades, who lived in the time of
Pompey the Great, brought this mode of treatment into great request. He
called exercises the common aids of physic,
wrote a treatise on the subject, which is mentioned by Celsus in his chapter
“De Frictione” (de Medic.
2.14, p. 82), but
the book is lost. He carried these notions so far, that he invented the
(Plin. Nat. 26.14
), or hanging beds, that the sick might be
rocked to sleep; which became so popular at that time, that they came
afterwards to be made of silver. He had so many particular ways to make
physic agreeable, and was so successful in the invention of exercises to
supply the place of medicine, that Pliny says (ibid.
§ 12) by these means he made himself the delight of mankind. About
this time the Roman physicians sent their consumptive patients to
Alexandria, which was done partly for the change of air, but chiefly for the
sake of the exercise by the motion of the ship; and therefore Celsus says
3.22, p. 156), “Si vera phthisis est,
opus est longa navigatione;” and a little after he makes Vehiculum
be two of the chief remedies. As for the other more common exercises, they
were daily practised, as is manifest from Celsus, Caelius Aurelianus,
Theodorus Priscianus, and the other Latin physicians. And this was
apparently done with great success; for Suetonius (Calig.
100.3) tells us that Germanicus was cured of a “crurum
gracilitas,” as he expresses it (by which he probably means an
atrophy), by riding; and Plutarch, in his Life of Cicero, gives us an
account of his weakness, and that he recovered his health by travelling and
excessive diligence in rubbing and chafing his body. (Compare Cic. Brut. 91
, § 313.) Pliny (Plin. Nat. 31.62
) tells us Annaeus Gallio,
who had been consul, was cured of a consumption by a sea-voyage; and Galen
gives us such accounts of the good effects of particular exercises, and they
were practised so universally by all classes, that it cannot be supposed but
they must have been able to produce great and good effects, However, from an
attentive perusal of what we find on this subject in the classical authors,
the reader can hardly fail of being convinced that the ancients esteemed
gymnastics too highly, just as at the present day they are (in a strictly
medical point of view) too much neglected.