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Pompeii gymnasium, from the top of the stadium wall.

The gymnasium in ancient Greece functioned as a training facility for competitors in public games. It was also a place for socializing and engaging in intellectual pursuits. The name comes from the Greek term gymnos meaning naked. Athletes competed in the nude, a practice said to encourage aesthetic appreciation of the male body and a tribute to the Gods. Gymnasia and palestrae were under the protection and patronage of Heracles, Hermes and, in Athens, Theseus.[1]

Contents

Etymology of gymnasium

Gymnasium is a Latin and English derivative of the original Greek noun gymnasion. Gymnasion (γυμνάσιον) is derived from the common Greek adjective gymnos (γυμνός), meaning "naked", by way of the related verb gymnazein (γυμνάζειν), whose meaning is "to do physical exercise". The verb had this meaning because one undressed for exercise. Hence the noun, which appears to mean "place to be naked", means "place for physical exercise". Historically, the gymnasium was used for exercise, communal bathing, and scholarly and philosophical pursuits. The English noun gymnast, first recorded in 1594,[2] is formed from the Greek gymnastēs, but in Greek this word means "trainer" not "gymnast". The palaistra was the part of the gymnasium devoted to wrestling, boxing and ball games.

Organization of ancient Greek gymnasia

The gymnasium was formed as a public institution where male athletes over 18 received training in physical exercises. The supervision of the gymnasiums was entrusted to gymnasiarchs, who were public officials responsible for the conduct of sports and games at public festivals and who directed the schools and supervised the competitors. The gymnastai were the teachers, coaches, and trainers of the athletes. The Greek gymnasiums also held lectures and discussions on philosophy, literature, and music, and public libraries were nearby.

Origins, rules, and customs

A hermaic sculpture of an old man, thought to be the master of a gymnasium. He held a long stick in his right hand. Ai Khanoum, Afghanistan, 2nd century BC.

The athletic contests for which the gymnasium supplied the means of training and competition formed part of the social and spiritual life of the Greeks from very early on. The contests took place in honour of heroes and gods, sometimes forming part of a periodic festival or the funeral rites of a deceased chief. The free and active Greek lifestyle (spent to a great extent in the open air) reinforced the attachment to such sports and after a period of time the contests became a prominent element in Greek culture. The victor in religious athletic contests, though he gained no material prize other than a wreath, was rewarded with the honour and respect of his fellow citizens. Training of competitors for the greater contests was a huge matter of public concern and special buildings were provided by the state for such use, with management entrusted to public officials. A victory in the great religious festivals was counted an honour for the whole state.[citation needed]

The regulation of the Athenian gymnasium is attributed by Pausanias (i. 39. 3) to Theseus. Solon made several laws on the subject; according to Galen these were reduced to a workable system of management in the time of Cleisthenes (late 500s and early 400s BC). While the origins of physical exercise regimes cannot be pinpointed, the practice of exercising in the nude had its beginnings in the seventh century BC. It is believed that the custom began in Sparta, and while various theories have been advanced, it is commonly thought that the main reason for the convention was the appreciation of the beauty of the male body. The same purpose is frequently attributed to the tradition of oiling the body, a custom so costly that it required significant public and private subsidies (the practice was the largest expense in gymnasia).

Historical development

The ancient Greek gymnasium soon became a place for more than exercise. This development arose through recognition by the Greeks of the strong relation between athletics, education and health. Accordingly, the gymnasium became connected with education on the one hand and medicine on the other. Physical training and maintenance of health and strength were the chief parts of children's earlier education[citation needed]. Except for time devoted to letters and music, the education of young men was solely conducted in the gymnasium, where provisions were made not only for physical pedagogy but for instruction in morals and ethics. As pupils grew older, informal conversation and other forms of social activity took the place of institutional, systematic discipline[citation needed]. Philosophers and sophists frequently assembled to hold talks and lectures in the gymnasium; thus the institution became a resort for those interested in less structured intellectual pursuits in addition to those using the place for training in physical exercises.

In Athens there were three great public gymnasia: the Academy, the Lyceum and the Cynosarges,[3] each of which was dedicated to a deity whose statue adorned the structure. Each of the three was rendered famous by association with a celebrated school of philosophy[4]. Antisthenes founded a school at the Cynosarges, from which some say the name Cynic derives;[5] Plato founded a school that gathered at the Academy, after which the school was named, making the gymnasium famous for hundreds of years;[6] and Aristotle founded a school that gathered at the Lyceum, after which the school was named.[7]

Plato considered gymnastics to be an important part of education (see Republic iii. and parts of Laws) and according to him it was the sophist Prodicus who first pointed out the connection between gymnastics and health. Having found gymnastic exercises beneficial to his own weak constitution, Prodicus formulated a method that became generally accepted and was subsequently improved by Hippocrates[citation needed]. Galen also put great stress on the proper and frequent use of gymnastics. Throughout other ancient Greek medical writings special exercises are prescribed as cures for specific diseases, showing the extent to which the Greeks considered health and fitness connected[citation needed]. The same connection is commonly suggested by experts today.[8]

Organization in Athens

In Athens, ten gymnasiarchs were appointed annually, one from each tribe[citation needed]. These officials rotated through a series of jobs, each with unique duties. They were responsible for looking after and compensating persons training for public contests, conducting the games at the great Athenian festivals, exercising general supervision over competitor moral, and decorating and maintaining the gymnasium[citation needed]. The office was one of many ordinary public services and so great expense was entailed on the gymnasiarchs[citation needed]. Beneath them in the organisational structure were ten sophronistae responsible for observing the conduct of the youths and (especially) for attending all their games[citation needed].

Paedotribae and gymnastae were responsible for teaching the methods involved in the various exercises, as well as choosing suitable athletics for the youths[citation needed]. The gymnastae were also responsible for monitoring the constitution of the pupils and prescribing remedies for them if they became unwell. The aleiptae oiled and dusted the bodies of the youths, acted as surgeons, and administered any drugs prescribed[citation needed]. According to Galen, there also existed a teacher specifically devoted to instruction in ball games.

Construction

Gymnasia were typically large structures containing spaces for each type of exercise as well as a stadium, palaistra, baths, outer porticos for practice in bad weather, and covered porticos where philosophers and other "men of letters" gave public lectures and held disputations[citation needed]. All Athenian gymnasia were located outside the city walls due to the large amount of space required for construction[citation needed].

Classical legacy

The Greek gymnasium never became popular with the Romans, who believed the training of boys in gymnastics conducive to idleness and immorality, and of little use for militaristic reasons (though in Sparta gymnastic training had been valued chiefly because it encouraged warlike tastes, promoted the bodily strength needed to use weapons and ensured the fortitude required to endure hardship)[citation needed]. In the Roman Republic, games in the Campus Martius, duties of camp life, and forced marches and other hardships of warfare took the place of the gymnastic exercises of the Greeks[citation needed]. The first public gymnasium in Rome was built by Nero – another was built later by Commodus.

In the Middle Ages, jousting, feats of horsemanship and field sports of various kinds became popular and the more systematic training of the body associated with the Greek gymnasium was neglected. It was no longer commonly believed that special exercises had specific therapeutic values, as Hippocrates and Galen once preached.

Notes

  1. ^ Pausanias (geographer), Guide to Greece, 4.32.1
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  3. ^ J. Burnet, Plato's Euthyphro, Apology of Socrates, and Crito, p. 7.
  4. ^ The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, 2nd edition, p. 257.
  5. ^ The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, pp. 164, 165.
  6. ^ p. 179, T. Martin, Ancient Greece, Yale University 2000.
  7. ^ J. Lynch, "Gymnasium", in D. Zeyl (ed.), Encyclopedia of Classical Philosophy, Greenwood Press 1997.
  8. ^ http://www.cdc.gov/NCCDPHP/SGR/mm.htm

See also

References


gymnasium,  from the top of the stadium wall. ]] 

The gymnasium in ancient Greece functioned as a training facility for competitors in public games. It was also a place for socializing and engaging in intellectual pursuits. The name comes from the Greek term gymnos meaning naked. Athletes competed in the nude, a practice said to encourage aesthetic appreciation of the male body and a tribute to the gods. Gymnasia and palestrae were under the protection and patronage of Heracles, Hermes and, in Athens, Theseus.[1]

Contents

Etymology of gymnasium

The word gymnasium is the romanization of the Greek noun "γυμνάσιον" (gymnasion), "gymnastic school", in pl. "bodily exercises" and generally "school"[2] which in turn is derived from the common Greek adjective "γυμνός" (gymnos) meaning "naked",[3] by way of the related verb "γυμνάζω" (gymnazo), whose meaning is "to train naked", "train in gymnastic exercise", generally "to train, to exercise".[4] The verb had this meaning because one undressed for exercise. Historically, the gymnasium was used for exercise, communal bathing, and scholarly and philosophical pursuits. The English noun gymnast, first recorded in 1594,[5] is formed from the Greek "γυμναστής" (gymnastēs),[6] but in Greek this word means "trainer" not "gymnast". The palaistra was the part of the gymnasium devoted to wrestling, boxing and ball games.

Organization of ancient Greek gymnasia

The gymnasium was formed as a public institution where young men received training in physical exercises. The supervision of the gymnasiums was entrusted to gymnasiarchs, who were public officials responsible for the conduct of sports and games at public festivals and who directed the schools and supervised the competitors. The gymnastai were the teachers, coaches, and trainers of the athletes. The Greek gymnasiums also held lectures and discussions on philosophy, literature, and music, and public libraries were nearby.

Origins, rules, and customs

ic sculpture of an old man, thought to be the master of a gymnasium. He held a long stick in his right hand. Ai Khanoum, Afghanistan, 2nd century BC.]]

The athletic contests for which the gymnasium supplied the means of training and competition formed part of the social and spiritual life of the Greeks from very early on. The contests took place in honour of heroes and gods, sometimes forming part of a periodic festival or the funeral rites of a deceased chief. The free and active Greek lifestyle (spent to a great extent in the open air) reinforced the attachment to such sports and after a period of time the contests became a prominent element in Greek culture. The victor in religious athletic contests, though he gained no material prize other than a wreath, was rewarded with the honour and respect of his fellow citizens. Training of competitors for the greater contests was a huge matter of public concern and special buildings were provided by the state for such use, with management entrusted to public officials. A victory in the great religious festivals was counted an honour for the whole state.

The regulation of the Athenian gymnasium is attributed by Pausanias (i. 39. 3) to Theseus. Solon made several laws on the subject; according to Galen these were reduced to a workable system of management in the time of Cleisthenes (late 500s and early 400s BC). While the origins of physical exercise regimes cannot be pinpointed, the practice of exercising in the nude had its beginnings in the seventh century BC. It is believed that the custom began in Sparta, and while various theories have been advanced, it is commonly thought that the main reason for the convention was the appreciation of the beauty of the male body. The same purpose is frequently attributed to the tradition of oiling the body, a custom so costly that it required significant public and private subsidies (the practice was the largest expense in gymnasia).

Historical development

The ancient Greek gymnasium soon became a place for more than exercise. This development arose through recognition by the Greeks of the strong relation between athletics, education and health. Accordingly, the gymnasium became connected with education on the one hand and medicine on the other. Physical training and maintenance of health and strength were the chief parts of children's earlier education. Except for time devoted to letters and music, the education of young men was solely conducted in the gymnasium, where provisions were made not only for physical pedagogy but for instruction in morals and ethics. As pupils grew older, informal conversation and other forms of social activity took the place of institutional, systematic discipline. Since the gymnasia were favorite resorts of youth, they were frequented by teachers, especially philosophers.[7] Philosophers and sophists frequently assembled to hold talks and lectures in the gymnasia; thus the institution became a resort for those interested in less structured intellectual pursuits in addition to those using the place for training in physical exercises.

In Athens there were three great public gymnasia: the Academy, the Lyceum and the Cynosarges,[8][7] each of which was dedicated to a deity whose statue adorned the structure. Each of the three was rendered famous by association with a celebrated school of philosophy[9]. Antisthenes founded a school at the Cynosarges, from which some say the name Cynic derives;[10] Plato founded a school that gathered at the Academy, after which the school was named, making the gymnasium famous for hundreds of years;[11] and Aristotle founded a school that gathered at the Lyceum, after which the school was named.[12]

Plato considered gymnastics to be an important part of education (see Republic iii. and parts of Laws) and according to him it was the sophist Prodicus who first pointed out the connection between gymnastics and health. Having found gymnastic exercises beneficial to his own weak constitution, Prodicus formulated a method that became generally accepted and was subsequently improved by Hippocrates. Galen also put great stress on the proper and frequent use of gymnastics. Throughout other ancient Greek medical writings special exercises are prescribed as cures for specific diseases, showing the extent to which the Greeks considered health and fitness connected. The same connection is commonly suggested by experts today.[13]

Organization in Athens

In Athens, ten gymnasiarchs were appointed annually, one from each tribe These officials rotated through a series of jobs, each with unique duties. They were responsible for looking after and compensating persons training for public contests, conducting the games at the great Athenian festivals, exercising general supervision over competitor moral, and decorating and maintaining the gymnasium The office was one of many ordinary public services and so great expense was entailed on the gymnasiarchs. Beneath them in the organisational structure were ten sophronistae responsible for observing the conduct of the youths and (especially) for attending all their games.

Paedotribae and gymnastae were responsible for teaching the methods involved in the various exercises, as well as choosing suitable athletics for the youths. The gymnastae were also responsible for monitoring the constitution of the pupils and prescribing remedies for them if they became unwell. The aleiptae oiled and dusted the bodies of the youths, acted as surgeons, and administered any drugs prescribed. According to Galen, there also existed a teacher specifically devoted to instruction in ball games.

Construction

Gymnasia were typically large structures containing spaces for each type of exercise as well as a stadium, palaistra, baths, outer porticos for practice in bad weather, and covered porticos where philosophers and other "men of letters" gave public lectures and held disputations. All Athenian gymnasia were located outside the city walls due to the large amount of space required for construction.[citation needed]

Classical legacy

The Greek gymnasium never became popular with the Romans, who believed the training of boys in gymnastics conducive to idleness and immorality, and of little use for militaristic reasons (though in Sparta gymnastic training had been valued chiefly because it encouraged warlike tastes, promoted the bodily strength needed to use weapons and ensured the fortitude required to endure hardship). In the Roman Republic, games in the Campus Martius, duties of camp life, and forced marches and other hardships of warfare took the place of the gymnastic exercises of the Greeks. The first public gymnasium in Rome was built by Nero – another was built later by Commodus.

In the Middle Ages, jousting, feats of horsemanship and field sports of various kinds became popular and the more systematic training of the body associated with the Greek gymnasium was neglected. It was no longer commonly believed that special exercises had specific therapeutic values, as Hippocrates and Galen once preached.

Notes

  1. ^ Pausanias (geographer), Guide to Greece, 4.32.1
  2. ^ γυμνάσιον, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus project
  3. ^ γυμνός, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus project
  4. ^ γυμνάζω, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus project
  5. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  6. ^ γυμναστής, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus project
  7. ^ a b  "Gymnasium". Collier's New Encyclopedia. 1921. 
  8. ^ J. Burnet, Plato's Euthyphro, Apology of Socrates, and Crito, p. 7.
  9. ^ The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, 2nd edition, p. 257.
  10. ^ The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, pp. 164, 165.
  11. ^ p. 179, T. Martin, Ancient Greece, Yale University 2000.
  12. ^ J. Lynch, "Gymnasium", in D. Zeyl (ed.), Encyclopedia of Classical Philosophy, Greenwood Press 1997.
  13. ^ http://www.cdc.gov/NCCDPHP/SGR/mm.htm

See also

References

  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Gymnastics and Gymnasium". Encyclopædia Britannica (Eleventh ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

Simple English

In Ancient Greece the Gymnasion (or Gymnasium, romanized name) was a place were athletes could train for the competitions in public games, such as the Olympic Games. Gymnos means naked. Only men were allowed to enter, and train; they did so fully naked (as the name implies). Athletes also competed in the nude. This was said to encourage aesthetic appreciation of the male body. It was believed to be a tribute to the Gods. Gymnasia and palestrae were under the protection and patronage of Heracles, Hermes and, in Athens, Theseus.[1]

Layout

The picture above shows the Pompeii gymnasium from the top of the stadium wall. The depression in the center-left of the picture was filled with water and used for swimming practice as well. Mock sea battles (naumachiae) took place in the flooded arena floor or a specially dug pool in the arena. According to Oscar Brockett in his History of the Theatre, 5th Ed. (1987), p. 70,
"Perhaps the most spectacular of all entertainments were the naumachiae, or sea battles. The first was given in 46 B.C. by Julius Caesar on a lake dug for the occasion; it featured a battle involving 2,000 marines and 6,000 oarsmen. Later the amphitheatres were sometimes flooded for such events. By far the most ambitious of all the naumachiae was given in 52 A.D. on the Fucine Lake east of Rome to celebrate the completion of a water conduit. On that occasion, 19,000 participants fought and many perished.
To the right of the picture (partially behind a tree trunk) is a line of carbonized tree stumps. These are the remains of trees (each hundreds of years old) that were part of the palaistra. They were burned in the volcanic eruption of 79. Between these and the colonnade is a line of saplings recently planted as a replacement.

References

  1. Pausanias (geographer), Guide to Greece, 4.32.1








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