chapter  3
8 Pages

Gymnasiums

The Latin and English word ‘gymnasium’ is a form of the Greek noun γυμναστήριο ‘gymnasion’, which derives from the Greek adjective γυμνόσ ‘gymnos’ (naked) and the related verb γυμνάζω ‘gymnazein’ (to do physical exercise). The ancient Greeks exercised and competed in athletics events naked. This is why ‘gymnasion’, which would logically have meant ‘place to be naked’, actually meant ‘place for physical exercise’. Because the Greeks appreciated the links between exercise, education and health, their gymnasiums developed into more than places for physical exercise. They became places where boys would do physical education and take instruction in morals and ethics. As the pupils completed their education, they used the gymnasium not only to maintain fitness but also to assemble for less structured intellectual and social pursuits. Philosophers would come to speak to the ready-made audiences – Plato lectured at the Academy in Athens and Aristotle spoke at the Lyceum. These world-famous centres of culture were actually gymnasiums.