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γυμνάσιον). Gymnastics 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. 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.

The great partiality of the Greeks for gymnastic exercises was productive of infinite good. It 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 power and elasticity. The plastic art also must have found its first and chief nourishment in the gymnastic and athletic performances. Respecting the advantages of gymnastics in a medical point of view, see Athletae; Medicina.

Gymnastics, in the widest sense of the word, comprehended also the agonistic and athletic arts (ἀγωνιστική and ἀθλητική)—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. In a narrower sense, however, the gymnasia had, with very few exceptions, nothing to do with the public contests, but 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 they will be considered in this article.

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 (Pausan. i. 39.3), but according to Galen it seems to have been about the time of Clisthenes 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. The oldest remains are those of the gymnasium at Olympia, which can not be earlier than the end of the fourth century B.C. (Bötticher, Olympia, p. 363 foll.).

Athens possessed three great gymnasia—the Lyceum (Λύκειον), 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

Plan of Gymnasium.

which we possess is that given by Vitruvius (v. 11), 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, that of W. Newton, in his translation of Vitruvius, may here be given with a few alterations, although some of the details are open to criticism.

The peristylium (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 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, λουτρόν (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 twelve feet; by this means those who walked about the margins in their apparel would not be annoyed by those who were exercising themselves. This portico is called by the Greeks ξυστός, because in the winter season the athletae exercised themselves in these covered stadia. The ξυστός had groves or plantations between the two porticoes, and walks between the trees, with seats of signine work. Adjoining the ξυστός (R) and double portico (S) are the uncovered walks (U), which in Greek are called περιδρομίδες, to which the athletae, in fair weather, went from the winterxystus to exercise. Beyond the xystus is the stadium (W), so large that a multitude of people might have sufficient room to behold the contests of the athletae. In this description of Vitruvius, two important parts of other Greek gymnasia (the Apodyterium and the Sphaeristerium) are not mentioned.

The Greeks 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 earliest 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. c. Timarch. 12). Another law of Solon excluded slaves from gymnastic exercises (c. Timarch. 138; Solon, 1). Boys who were children of an Athenian citizen and a foreign mother (νόθοι) were not admitted to any other gymnasium but the Cynosarges (Plut. Them. 1). 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. 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 (De Rep. v. p. 452; 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 (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. But K. F. Hermann (Privatalt. 36) seems to have proved that the gymnasium was never used for a place of training.

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. Married women, however, did not frequent the gymnasia.

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. His laws mention a magistrate, called the Gymnasiarch (γυμνασίαρχος or γυμνασιάρχης), who was intrusted 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, 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 contests took place (De Rep. Athen. 1.13). 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. c. 9, etc.) 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. Another part of his duties was to conduct the solemn games at certain great festivals, espe

Boxer. (Dresden.)

cially the torch-race (λαμπαδηφορία), for which he selected the most distinguished among the ephebi of the gymnasia. The number of Gymnasiarchs was, according to Libanius on Demosthenes (c. Mid. p. 510) ten, one from every tribe. 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 (Anton. 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 twelve or thirteen 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 Cyrené the office was sometimes held by women.

An office which is 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 reorganization of the gymnasia in the second century B.C., when they served also as places for intellectual instruction. See Education, p. 572.

An office of very great importance, in an educational point of view, was that of the Sophronistae (σωφρονισταί). Their 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. Mag. s. h. v.). 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.

The instructions in the palaestrae, sometimes attached to gymnasia, were given by the Gymnastae (γυμνασταί) and the Paedotribae (παιδοτρίβαι); at a later period Hypopaedotribae were added. The Paedotribes was required to possess a knowledge of all the various exercises which were performed by 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.

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. (See Aliptae.) These men sometimes also acted as surgeons or teachers. Galen 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.

Among the games we may mention:


The ball (σφαίρισις, σφαιρομαχία, etc.), which was in universal favour, and was here, in Greece, as at Rome, played in a variety of ways, as appears from the words ἀπόρραξις, ἐπίσκυρος, φαινίνδα, or ἁρπαστόν, etc. Every gymnasium contained one large room for the purpose of playing at ball in it (σφαιριστήριον).


Παίζειν ἑλκυστίνδα, διελκυστίνδα, or διὰ γραμμῆς, was a game in which one

The Wrestlers. (Uffizi Gallery, Florence.)

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.


The top (βέμβηξ, βέμβιξ, ῥομβος, στρόβιλος), which was as common an amusement with Greek boys as in our own days.


The πεντάλιθος, which was a game with five stones, which were thrown up from the upper part of the hand and caught in the palm.


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. 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 (ἅλμα, with and without ἁλτῆρες), wrestling (πάλη), boxing (πυγμή), the pancratium (παγκράτιον, πένταθλον, λαμπαδηφορία), dancing (ὄρχησις), etc., are described in separate articles.

A gymnasium was, as Vitruvius observes, not a Roman institution, and Dionysius of Halicarnassus (Ant. Rom. vii. 70-72) expressly states that the whole ἀγωνιστική of the 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 (Quaest. Rom. 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. The emperor Nero was the first who built a public gymnasium at Rome (Suet. Ner. 12); another was erected by Commodus (Herodian, i. 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 gymnasia.

See Burette, Histoire des Athlètes, in the Mém. de l'Acad. des Inscript. i. 3; G. Löbker, Die Gymnastik der Hellenen (Münster, 1835); Wachsmuth, Hellen. Alterth. vol. ii. p. 344, etc., 2d ed.; Müller, Dorier, iv. 5.4, etc.; Becker-Göll, Charikles, ii. 213-251; Gallus, iii. 168-188; and especially J. H. Krause, Die Gymnastik u. Agonistik der Hellenen (Leipzig, 1841); and Dittenberger, De Ephebis Atticis (ib. 1863). The histories of education among the ancients, especially that of Grasberger, likewise contain much useful information on the subject. See Athletae; Education.

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