MUSIC and gymnastic together made up Greek education. Music trained the mind, gymnastic the body. From the day that the Greek boy went to school about the age of seven he spent a considerable portion of each day in the palaestra and gymnasium exercising himself under trained supervision, and he continued to do so till he reached manhood and often indeed much longer.


Before we proceed we must pause and consider what is the difference between the palaestra and the gymnasium. The words are often used loosely even by Greek writers, and they are difficult to define, for they denote as great a variety of institutions as do our words ‘School’ and ‘College’. But there are certain general distinctions. The palaestra is properly the wrestling-school and is essentially a building, of much the same type as an ordinary Greek house with an open courtyard in the centre and some provision for undressing and for washing. The word gymnasium means ‘an exercise for which you strip’, and so it comes to be used first in the plural, then in the singular as the place where you take exercise. The essential part of it is the running-track, and it is not a building but an athletic ground, but like the palaestra it requires undressing-rooms and bathrooms, and therefore it usually contains a palaestra.

The palaestrae in the gymnasia were public institutions, so were the palaestrae at Olympia and Elis where the athletes trained. But the majority of palaestrae were owned by private individuals, often by schoolmasters. Schoolmasters with only a few pupils would take them in their own houses and hire a palaestra for their physical training, but those with the larger schools had palaestrae of their own where they gave all their instruction. When not required for school purposes the palaestra might be used by older pupils and even by men. Several of Plato’s dialogues take place in a palaestra. But for the most part the palaestra was the place where boys received physical training. It was usually within the city, and its privacy made it more suitable for this purpose.

The gymnasium being a sports-ground was usually outside the city; it was a public institution and open to all citizens. Young boys might be taken there for running, or throwing the spear, exercises for which there was no room in the palaestra, but its special use was as a training-ground for the Epheboi.⁶⁷ There the athletes could train themselves for the public games, while men of all ages could take such exercise as suited them.

First let us look at the palaestra. Its general arrangement is clearly shown in the plan of the palaestra of Olympia (Fig. 36) which, though intended only for the use of athletes at the festival, agrees for the most part with the description given by Vitruvius and may be regarded as typical of most Greek palaestrae. A good idea of its appearance may be formed from the Gladiatorial Barracks at Pompeii (Fig. 37), which are in reality an old Greek palaestra very similar in plan to that of Olympia, the rooms round the colonnade having been replaced by cells for gladiators. The central courtyard at Olympia is 41 metres square and is surrounded by a covered colonnade which probably served as a running-track. There are two principal entrances at either end of the south wall. A pillared vestibule leads into an ante-room opening on the central court. Between the two ante-rooms is a long shallow hall faced by a row of Ionic pillars. It is the Apodyterion or undressing-room, which was usually close to the entrance and served as a meeting-place for athletes and their friends. Opposite, on the other side of the court, is another large hall which was probably theEphebeion, a sort of club-room. The rooms on the north are deeper so as to afford more shelter from the sun. In the north-east corner is the bathroom. It contains a large tank 4 metres square and 1 38 metres deep. In the more luxurious palaestra described by Vitruvius there are elaborate hot baths heated by furnaces. But in conservative Olympia such luxuries were unknown, and so they were usually in the fifth century. It is impossible to say for what the other rooms were used. Some of them opened into the courtyard by doorways, but only one, that in the south-east corner, had a door. Possibly it was the porter’s lodge. Other rooms served for the storage of oil and athletic apparatus. Most of the rooms were open in front, and several of them were provided with benches. They probably served as lounges where visitors could sit and watch the athletes practising. There are remains of various altars and bases of statues. In many palaestrae there were statues of Heracles and Hermes, and also of famous athletes.




37. THE GLADIATORIAL BARRACKS AT POMPEII, formerly a Greek palaestra. The surrounding rooms were converted into cells for the gladiators. Photo. Alinari.


38. COURT OF THE STABIAN BATHS, POMPEII, showing stone ball which was used for some game like bowls or skittles. Photograph from Mr. Stanley Casson.


The courtyard was covered with fine sand for the convenience of wrestlers, but along the north side is a very curious strip of pavement 24 20 metres long and 5 44 metres broad, formed of alternate bands of ribbed and smooth tiles. The ribbed tiles are arranged in two bands 1 60 metres wide and are separated by a band of smooth tiles 1 12 metres wide. These smooth tiles have a raised edge along the sides and are so arranged that the edges form continuous ridges stretching the whole length of the pavement. The object of this curious pavement is uncertain. We may reject the delightfully humorous suggestions that it was covered with sand and used as a wrestling-ring, or that it was a jumping-track. The most reasonable explanation is that it was a sort of bowling alley: A somewhat similar pavement was found in the large Thermae at Pompeii, and on it some heavy stone balls (Fig. 38).

,It is not so easy to find a typical gymnasium. Most of those that have been excavated belong to Hellenistic and Roman times when the gymnasium had developed into a sort of school or college with libraries, class-rooms, and lecture-halls. But the true Greek gymnasium was a sports-ground. Shade and water being essential for the comfort of those using it, the site usually selected was a grove beside some stream outside the city. The Platanistas at Sparta was on an island formed by the windings of the river and took its name from the plane trees surrounding it. Athens had already in the sixth century three gymnasia, the Lyceum, the Academea, and the Cynosarges. All three were sacred groves, the Lyceum on the west side, on the banks of the Cephisus, the other two on the east beside the Eridanus and the Ilissus. The two former at least were large enough for riding lessons and cavalry parades. From literature and vase-paintings we can picture the life of these gymnasia, but of the gymnasia themselves we know nothing. The gymnasia at Olympia and Delphi were not, like those at Athens, the daily resort of the citizens, but were intended chiefly for the use of competitors at the festivals. There was therefore no need for spacious parade grounds or shady walks. But from their remains we can form some idea of the necessary buildings. The best preserved is that of Delphi built early in the fourth century. Most of the parts of it are mentioned in an inscription containing the official accounts for work in the stadium and gymnasium for the year 258 B.C.⁶⁸



39. PLAN OF THE GYMNASIUM AT DELPHI. B.C.H. 1892, pl. XIII. [See now Fouilles de Delphes: le Gymnase, by Jean Jannoray.]

40. BATH IN THE GYMNASIUM AT DELPHI. In the back wall were placed pipes ending in lions’ heads from which water poured into troughs similar to those in Fig. 41, but placed higher. Photograph from the Archaeological Institute, Athens.


41. WASHING TROUGH AND LIONS’ HEAD SPOUTS in the gymnasium at Priene. Priene, Fig. 278.


The gymnasium at Delphi is a good example of the skill with which the Greeks adapted their buildings to the nature of the ground (Fig. 39). It is constructed in two terraces on the steep slope overlooking the gorge of the Pleistus. The upper terrace is 180 metres long and 25 to 30 metres deep, and contains a covered running-track or Xystos 7 metres broad, and parallel to it an uncovered track or Paradromis. From the inscription we learn that they were dug up, rolled, and covered with fine white sand. Six picks were provided for the work, and a similar inscription at Delos mentions the purchase of rollers for the gymnasium.⁶⁹ The length of the track is approximately that of the Delphic stadium, which was 177 metres.

The lower terrace contains an irregular enclosure consisting of the baths and palaestra. The latter is a small court 14 metres square surrounded by a colonnade on to which various rooms open. One of these is the apodyterion or undressing-room, two are sphairisteria, rooms or perhaps open courts for ball play. The inscription states that in one of these the ground is to be dug up, raked over and rolled, and finally covered with black earth. There is mention, too, of a wall. Among the various games of ball we find some which consisted in bouncing a ball against a wall or on the ground and striking it back with the hand as it rebounded.

The bathroom is especially interesting (Fig. 40). One side of it is formed by the retaining-wall of the upper terrace. In this wall are constructed a row of fountains. The water was supplied from a conduit in the upper terrace and issued through eleven bronze spouts in the shape of animals’ heads placed at such a height as to fall conveniently over the head and shoulders of the bathers in the same manner as depicted in Fig. 58. It was caught below in eleven basins which were used for washing (cp. Fig. 41). In the centre of the enclosure was a circular plunge bath, 10 metres in diameter and 1 80 metres deep, the sides formed of a series of steps. There were no warm baths in the old gymnasium, though some seem to have been added in Roman times.

Vitruvius, who wrote just before the beginning of our era, gives a full description of the gymnasium. His plan differs from that we have described chiefly in the addition of elaborate hot baths. Indeed these tend to encroach so much that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the palaestra from the bathing establishment which always has an open court for ball play and other exercise. On these we need not dwell, but two of the rooms which he mentions are of interest, the Elaiothesion or oil store, and the Konisterion or dusting-room.

Oil played a very important part in Greek training. Not only did the Greek oil himself before and after the bath, but athletes, especially wrestlers, carefully rubbed themselves with oil before exercise. The very names Paidotribes or ‘boy rubber’ and Aleiptes or ‘oiler’ indicate the importance of oil and massage. Athletes are sometimes described as ‘those who oil themselves’. In the fifth century every one brought his own oil flask and strigil: But at times of festival oil was provided free for all competitors, and in later times a free supply was provided for the use of the Epheboi in training, and indeed for all who used the gymnasia. Enormous quantities were required. A Spartan inscription referring to some athletic contest directs that the gymnasiarch shall provide daily four kyathoi, about a third of a pint, for each man, three for each youth, two for each boy.⁷⁰ The gymnasiarch, one of those honorary officials of whom we shall speak later, often showed his generosity by providing oil at his own expense, or even by leaving a sum of money to serve as an endowment for the purpose. The oil was kept in amphorae or in tanks. A picture of such a tank is shown on the funeral stele of one Diodorus of Prusa, a gymnasiarch who had probably celebrated his term of office by providing oil (Fig. 42). It is a large circular vessel supported on three elaborately wrought legs, and on its side hang three ladles holding a kyathos each that were used for measuring out the oil. Under the empire the provision of oil was a heavy burden for the gymnasiarch or even for the state.

The Konisterion was the room where athletes powdered themselves before exercise. The powder (κóνις) must not be confused with the lye (κoνíα) which was used in washing to form a lather. Its effects on the body were regarded as hardly less beneficial than those of oil.⁷¹ It closed the pores of the skin, checked excessive perspiration, and kept the body cool. There were special kinds of powder credited with special virtues. One of a clayey nature was supposed to be particularly cleansing, another resembling brick-dust produced perspiration on bodies that were overdry, a third of a bituminous nature warmed the skin. Two sorts, a black and a yellow earth, were prized for making the body supple and sleek. The powder was kept in baskets, and ought, we are told, to be applied with a supple wrist and open fingers so as to fall like fine dust, but these are refinements for the few. The ordinary youths contented themselves with common earth or sand. In later times the earth was mixed with water to form a sort of mud-bath in which the athlete rolled. This was popularly known as ceroma.

Some idea of the magnificence of later gymnasia can be gathered from the plan of the great gymnasium at Pergamum (Fig. 43). In the reign of Tiberius there were five gymnasia at Pergamum, and a sixth was added later. The one illustrated was built originally in the second century B.C., but the existing remains belong mostly to the second century after Christ. It consists of three, or originally four, terraces cut out of the steep face of the hill. The lowest terrace, about 80 metres long, was the gymnasium of the boys. On the northern wall, which is the retaining-wall of the middle terrace, was found a list of boys who had passed out into the ranks of the Epheboi. To the latter belonged the middle gymnasium, and its walls were covered with lists of their names. The great upper gymnasium is that of the young men, and to the east of it, not shown on the plan, are the Thermae or hot baths. Along the south side is a covered running-track 200 metres long. The great court, 36 by 74 metres, was surrounded by a Corinthian colonnade and adorned with numerous statues. The rooms opening on to the colonnade include a theatre, and a great pillared hall, dedicated to ‘the Emperors and the Fatherland’. Of life in the public gymnasia and the palaestrae of Athens in the fifth century we can form some idea from the dialogues of Plato and the scenes on the red-figured vases. With their aid let us try to picture the scene in the Lyceum or the Academea.


42. Stele of Diodorus, gymnasiarch of Prusa, showing crown, votive tablets, wrestler’s cap, strigils, palms. Hanging on the side of the oil tank are ladles (kvathoi) for measuring the oil. Imperial Period. Berichte der Sächsischen Gesellschaft d. Wissenschaften, 1873, pl. I.



43. PLAN OF GYMNASIUM AT PERGAMUM. Gk. Athletics, Fig. 189, simplified from Ath. Mitt. xxix, pl. VII; xxxiii, pl. XVIII.

44. SCENE FROM THE UNDRESSING ROOM.. Attic r.-f. calyx-krater. Late 6th century. Berlin 2180. To l. boy removing thorn from a youth’s foot. Another youth pours oil from an aryballos into his hand, a third has just taken off his himation and is about to hand it to a slave boy. F.R. 157.


45. SCENES FROM THE UNDRESSING ROOM. Attic r.-f. kylix. About 480 B. C. Copenhagen, Thorvaldsen Museum. On either side pillars with very broad capitals suggesting a building; javelins lean against the wall. Hanging on the wall are strigils, oil flasks, a diskos in its sling, a hare. Groups of epheboi and trainers, some standing, some sitting. Photograph from Professor Johansen.



46. YOUTH MASSAGING THE BACK OF FRIEND. Attic r.-f. kylix. About 480 B. C. Rome, Villa Giulia. Dedalo, iv, p. 737; Jüthner, Körperkultur, Fig. 19.


47. YOUTHS MASSAGING THEMSELVES. Interior of Attic r.-f. kylix. About 430 B. C. British Museum E. 83 (Fig. 60). Drawing by Professor Beazley.



48. YOUTH MASSAGING BOXER. Bronze Etruscan ista. About 3rd century. Rome, Vatican. Gerhard, Etruskische Spiegel, i, pl. VI.


The gymnasium, as we have said, lies by the riverside and is laid out with shady avenues and walks. There is a palaestra with baths similar to those at Delphi or Olympia but probably more spacious. Outside are running-tracks, jumping-pits, ranges for throwing the diskos and the javelin, open spaces for riding lessons and parades. We enter and find ourselves in an anteroom where perhaps is a statue of one of the gods of the palaestra, Hermes or Apollo. Passing through it we enter the apodyterion or undressing-room, a long narrow hall looking out on the colonnade and the court. Round the walls are benches, and on them hang all sorts of athletic apparatus, diskoi in their slings and jumping-weights, wrestling caps and boxing thongs, oil flasks, sponges, and strigils. Leaning against a pillar are some of the long blunt javelins used for practice. Some of the young men have hung up their belongings on the walls; here is a basket and here a strange object, a hare. Perhaps one of them has caught it and brought it as a present to the trainer or has himself received it as a present or a prize (Figs. 44, 45).

The room is full of people, mostly, it would seem, youths from fifteen to twenty years of age, but there are older men, too, who have come for exercise or to talk with those they meet there. For, like a cricket pavilion, the apodyterion is a general meeting-place. Here we may see a mathematician drawing figures in the sand as he demonstrates to a group of youths some new problem. Here talking with some friends is an ugly, snub-nosed man whom we recognize at once. Two middle-aged men enter, greet him, and pass out into the colonnade, take two or three turns round it by way of exercise, and rejoin the group. They are sophists, and with mock humility the snub-nosed man consults them on the nature of true wisdom.

But most of the younger men are less seriously engaged. Those who have not yet taken their exercise or who have finished it are standing or sitting about talking. Two boys in a corner are playing knuckle-bones. Some of the fashionable young men have brought with them their fighting quails or their pet animals. Two of them are setting a cat and a dog to fight for a wager (Fig. 54). Others are dressing or undressing. Here is a group of youths undressing. One of them has a thorn in his foot and is standing with his mantle thrown over his shoulders leaning on his stick while a small attendant picks it out (Fig. 44). Another is carefully folding his mantle and is about to hand it to an attendant to look after. It is a wise precaution. ‘Clothes-snatchers’ are as common in the baths and the palaestrae as pick-pockets at a modern race-meeting. Solon even imposed the penalty of death on any one who stole from the gymnasium a cloak, or oil flask, or any other object worth more than ten drachmae. Still, many of the youths leave their clothes on stools or benches. Here is one who has laid his mantle down and is oiling himself before going out to wrestle. He holds the oil flask high up in his right hand and lets the oil drip into his left hand. A youth with his hands bound with boxing thongs is being massaged by a friend. Sometimes a trainer is employed for oiling and massage, but in the fifth century these are still simple processes, there is no elaborate system (Figs. 46, 47, 48). Other youths are picking up the sand and throwing it at one another, a simple means of powdering. Those who have finished their exercise are scraping off the oil and dirt with strigils (Fig. 60).


49. Punching the korykos. Detail from the Ficoroni cista, Italian work made at Rome by Novios Plautios. Late 4th century B. C., copying a fourth-century Greek picture. Rome, Villa Giulia. Pfuhl, Malerei, iii. 254.

If we look into one of the other rooms we may see some of the older men exercising themselves with ball play. They are bouncing the ball against the floor or the wall and striking it back with the flat of the hand, trying to do so as many times as possible. One wonders that two of them did not try doing this alternately and thus evolve some game like fives. Perhaps they did. We know strangely little about Greek ball play.

In another room we see some very familiar objects. It is the Korykeion, and from the beams of the ceiling hang various sorts of punch-ball (κ ρυκoς). The Greek boxer used the punch-ball for practice much as the modern boxer does. It is a bag or skin filled with fig-seeds, meal, or sand, and is hung on a level with the head. There is another larger punch-ball like a wine-skin, hung about two feet from the floor, which is used by pankratiasts. It is not unlike the sacks sometimes used to teach boys to tackle in football. There may also be dummies which a boxer may use if he can find no one to spar with (Figs. 49, 50).

The courtyard is full of athletes boxing, wrestling, or practising the pankration. There are picks lying about, and one youth is loosening the ground with the pick so as to make it soft for the wrestlers. The use of the pick is much recommended as an exercise (Figs. 52, 56). The ground for the pankration has been watered into a soft mud. Trainers are watching the practice, clothed in long mantles and holding in their hands their badge of office, long forked rods with which they enforce discipline and punish any clumsiness or unfairness. Outside in the open park other youths are running races ‘mid a fragrance of smilax and leisure and white poplar in the springtime when the plane tree whispers to the elm’.⁷² Others are practising for the pentathlon, throwing the diskos or the javelin, or jumping. A flute-player stands by giving them the rhythm for their movements. Some boys are trundling hoops (Fig. 55) or engaged in one of the many ball games. In an open space we may see a ground marked out much like a football ground where teams of boys are playing a sort of ball game. In another part a company of Epheboi are learning to ride. One of them is practising mounting by means of a sort of vaulting-pole while the trainer looks on (Fig 58). He is naked—but other Epheboi are dressed in their gay cloaks and broad-brimmed hats, and are going through some cavalry manoeuvres. Some on horseback are practising javelin-throwing at a target.

After exercise comes the bath. Under the trees is a pleasant gabled building with fountains much like those at Delphi. A number of youths are washing. One of them is oiling himself, another is pouring into his hand some powder to rub on the body and form a lather. Various sorts of powder are used: a sort of lye formed from wood ashes, an alkali called litron, and fuller’s earth. Other youths stand under the fountains and let the water pour over their head and shoulders (Fig. 57). The strigil of course is in constant use. In a room of the palaestra we see another method of washing. A group of youths stand round a large basin. One of them is splashing himself, another has got a friend to sluice him with a bucketful of water (Fig. 60). In some gymnasia there is a plunge bath, as at Delphi (Fig. 40), but the river itself is more convenient for those who want a dip.


50. Dwarf as pankratiast punching and kicking large korykos. R.-f. pelike. About 420 B.C. Leningrad, Hermitage, 1611. Annali, 1870, Pl. R.


The gymnasia, being public institutions, were usually under the control of public officials, gymnasiarchs.⁷³ At Athens the control of education and therefore of the gymnasia was vested in a board of ten Sophronistai, and in the fourth century a magistrate called Kosmetes was appointed for that purpose. The duties of the gymnasiarch were confined there to the training of teams for the torch race. But elsewhere the gymnasiarch appears as a sort of minister of education. Sometimes he is a duly appointed magistrate, often he is one of those honorary magistrates chosen from the ranks of the richer citizens to perform expensive public services. In either case he was expected to spend his own money freely, in organizing displays and competitions, in improving the gymnasia, especially in providing oil and, in later times, fuel for the furnaces to heat the hot baths.



51. A WRESTLING LESSON. Attic r.-f. psykter. Late 6th century. Boston 01.8019. Antike Denkmäler, ii. 20. To l. trainer giving lesson in wrestling. One of the wrestlers has allowed the other to obtain his hold and with outstretched hands awaits the word of command. To r., javelin throwers; see Fig. 143 from the same vase.

52. PALAESTRA SCENES. Attic r.-f. kylix. About 480 B.C. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Corpus Vasorum, Oxford, ii. 5 ; vi. 1, 2. a. Wrestlers, cp. Fig. 164: trainer with forked rod: youth with pick; boxer measuring his boxing thong. b. Three boxers, trainer, youth exercising with halteres. c. In centre youth holding javelin, and in his right hand the amentum; he seems to be stepping out the ground. Youthful trainer with walking-stick and forked rod watches him. Notice how the rod is curved to fit the space: the same thing sometimes takes place with the human figure, e. g. Fig. 114.



53, 54. TWO SIDES, MIDDLE AND RIGHT, OF A MARBLE BASE FOUND AT ATHENS in 1922. Late 6th century. See also Fig. 212. J.H.S. xlii, p. 104, pl. VI; xlv, p. 164. Photographs from casts.

53. CAT AND DOG FIGHT. Two epheboi seated set a cat and a dog to fight, two others standing watch with interest.


54. ATHLETES PRACTISING. Tol.runnerin the attitude of the start (see p. 135). Two wrestlers; one of them has seized the other’s left arm with both hands, intending to turn round and swing him over his shoulder. The other frustrates this move by placing his right hand against his shoulder. To r. javelin thrower adjusting the thong, cp. Fig. 143.


55. BOY WITH HOOP. Interior of Attic r.-f. kylix. About 490 B. c. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford Corpus Vasorum, Oxford, i. 8.


56. BOY WITH PICK FILLING A BASKET WITH SAND, perhaps for the use of the wrestlers. Interior of Attic r.-f. kylix. About 490 B. c. Brussels. Corpus Vasorum, Brussels, III. i. c, pl. IV. 1. Photograph by Mrs. Beazley.




59. BRONZE STRIGILS AND OIL FLASK in the British Museum, 337. Guide to Greek and Roman Life, p. 115, Fig. 126.

57. WASHING AT A FOUNTAIN. B:-f. hydria. Late 6th century. Leyden 14 e. 28. The scene is at a fountain under a portico in a grove. The athletes have hung their clothes on the boughs of a tree. The water issues from two lions’ heads (cp. Figs. 40, 41) under which stand two men. On the left two youths are preparing for the bath: one of them holds an oil-flask high in his r. hand (cp. Fig. 44). To the r., not shown in the photograph, two youths, one of whom holds an oil-flask in his left hand. Photograph from Professor Beazley. Beazley, J.H.S. xlvii, pl. XI, pp. 63, 64.


58. A RIDING LESSON. R.-f. kylix. About 480 B. C. Munich 2639. A youth preparing to vault on a led horse by means of a pole. To 1. trainer giving instruction or order. Part of the boy on horseback is restored. New photograph obtained for me by Dr. Sieveking.


60. YOUTHS WASHING AND SCRAPING THEMSELVES WITH STRIGILS. Attic r.-f. kylix in British Museum, E. 83. About 430 B. C. New photograph. For interior see Fig. 47.


The actual training was given by the Paidotribes and the Gymnastes. ⁷⁴ The former, as the name denotes, was properly the trainer of boys, and is usually coupled with the schoolmaster. He was a private teacher often with a palaestra of his own. His fee for a course in the fourth century was a mina, about £4. Parents took considerable pains in choosing a paidotribes for their sons. Paidotribai were also employed in the gymnasia to train the Epheboi. In Hellenistic times they had a number of assistants for special exercises, the sphairistes who taught ball play, the akontistes andtoxotes who gave instruction in the use of the javelin and the bow, and the hoplomachos who gave lessons in the use of arms. The paidotribes may sometimes have trained athletes, but this was properly the work of the gymnastes. The earliest gymnastai of whom we hear were boxers and wrestlers who gave practical instruction in these exercises, but in the fifth century they developed a science of training or gymnastic which aimed, by means of rules for diet, massage, and exercise, at producing the physical condition required for athletic success.

The science of gymnastic was closely connected with that of medicine. The trainer, like the doctor, required a knowledge of diet and of the effects on the body of certain kinds of food: he required some knowledge of anatomy and of the effects of different kinds of exercises; he required, too, to be a judge of the human animal and to be able to recommend to any individual the sort of athletics that he should take up and the training suitable for him. Unfortunately the trainer was not as a rule a scientific man, and his training was vitiated from the first by a false ideal. It aimed at producing not general physical excellence but the artificial condition required for some particular event. At the same time, under the paidotribai and gymnastai there arose in the fifth century a science of medical gymnastics. It was the invention, according to Plato,⁷⁵ of one Herodicus of Selymbria, a paidotribes, who suffering from a mortal disease, discovered a means of treating it by strict rules of diet and exercise. ‘By a combination of training and medicine he found out a way of torturing first himself and then the rest of the world by the invention of a lingering death.’ Another invention with which these trainers are credited is that of medical massage (iaτρaλειπτικ ). But these developments need not be discussed here.


Physical training was, as we have seen, an essential part of Greek education. In most Greek states education was voluntary, but the Greeks were enthusiasts for education, and few who could afford it failed to avail themselves of the services of the schoolmaster and the paidotribes for their sons, at least till the age of fourteen, when the elementary course of education usually ended for the poorer classes. The well-to-do, however, continued their education, attending the lectures of mathematicians, rhetoricians, grammarians, and practising in the palaestra or gymnasium till the age of seventeen or eighteen. Then they were enrolled in the ranks of the Epheboi. The two years’ training of the Epheboi was the only part of education that was compulsory, and they were two strenuous years. ‘Rods and toils unmeasured’ were then their lot, says the author of the Platonic treatise Axiochos. Thus the Greek boy’s physical education extended over twelve years or more.

Of the system of this physical education we know very little, especially in its early stages. It is sometimes stated that the Greek boy was carefully taught at home the correct method of standing and walking, and a most ingenious theory of physical training has been built up on this conjecture. Unfortunately there is no evidence for it either in literature or art. It is true that, as Aristophanes tells us, the Greek boy was taught the correct way of sitting and of getting up, and not to sit with crossed legs.⁷⁶ But those were questions of good manners, not of physical training. The Greek had no more need to learn how to stand and how to walk than an animal has. The modern child acquires bad habits of standing and walking owing to his sedentary life and the cramping effects of clothing and boots, and he therefore requires appropriate exercises to correct these bad habits. The Greek, living a freer, more natural life, needed no such correction. The object of his physical training was to develop his strength and activity. It was no artificial or scientific system, it grew up naturally from those athletic exercises that were the tradition and the delight of his race.

We do not know in what order the exercises were taught and we know little about the method of teaching. We may be sure, however, that the system was progressive. Plato recommends that races for boys shall be only half the distance of those for men, and races for ‘the beardless’ only two-thirds. Further, the difference in the weights of existing diskoi and jumping-weights indicates that light weights were used by boys. The fact that the pankration for boys was not introduced at Olympia till the second century B.C. suggests that the Olympic authorities at least did not regard it as a suitable competition for boys, and though elsewhere, even in the fifth century, there were competitions in this event for boys, we may infer that it was taught later than wrestling or boxing.

The only exercise as to which we have definite information is wrestling. Teaching in wrestling was, as the name palaestra indicates, the most important part of physical education. It was taught progressively as a sort of drill. First boys were taught to perform the separate movements or figures (σχ µaτa), then to combine them. Such instruction could be given to a pair of boys, or to a whole class arranged in pairs. We have preserved in a papyrus from Oxyrrhynchus a fragment from a manual of instruction in wrestling.⁷⁷ It is in the form of a drill for various holds and throws. The instructor gives one or more orders to each of the pupils or pairs of pupils in turn, ending each group of orders with the order ‘engage’ (πλ ξoν) or ‘throw’ ( εîψoν). Unfortunately the papyrus is much mutilated and the interpretation of many of the terms is very obscure. One simple example of these orders must suffice. Addressing one of the pair, whom we will call A, the instructor says, ‘Put your right arm round his back’. Then to B, ‘Take an underhold’. Then to A again, ‘Step across and engage’. In Fig. 51 we see an excellent illustration of such a wrestling lesson. One youth has taken his hold, the other waits for the instructor’s next order.

This method of instruction, which is quite familiar to us in the present day, was equally applicable to the ‘hits’ and ‘guards’ of boxing, or to the more complicated movements of the pankration. When the pupil had thoroughly learnt the movements and their combinations he would be allowed to proceed to ‘loose play’ as it is called in fencing. Similarly the preliminary movements of throwing the diskos and the javelin, or swinging the weights before the jump, could all be taught as drill. Indeed they were probably taught as a musical drill, for, as we have seen, the time in these exercises was commonly given by a flute-player. The jumping weights were in later times used much in the same way as dumbbells, and it seems not unlikely they were already so used even in the fifth century: for athletes are often seen swinging them in attitudes which can hardly have any connexion with jumping.

The training of the Epheboi must have had an important influence on the national physique. Besides gymnastic exercises it included riding and the use of all weapons, and during the second year the Epheboi gained hardihood and experience by acting as patrols on the frontiers.

The interest in this training was kept alive by innumerable competitions, arranged for boys of different ages. Further variety was added by ball play and other games which probably occupied a more important place in the life of the palaestra than we realize. Nor must we forget the influence of the dance in giving grace of carriage and movement. Greek dancing was closely connected with religion and formed part of all religious festivals and processions. From an educational point of view the choral competitions between the tribes at Athens were particularly valuable. Each tribe was represented by a choir of fifty boys who were trained free of charge by some rich citizen appointed as choregos for the purpose. This free training was especially useful to the poorer citizens. If all the tribes were represented, five hundred boys must have received this free training every year. The dance was dramatic and imitative and exercised every part of the body. Some dances were definitely athletic or military in character. In the gymnopaidia at Sparta the dancers imitated all the movements of wrestling. The Pyrrhic dance was an imitation of war. The dancers, armed with shields and javelins, went through the various actions of attack or defence (Fig. 69), some pretending to hurl spears or javelins or strike their opponents, others bending to one side, crouching down, leaping up in the air to avoid the missiles. The torch-races again (Fig. 65), though they can hardly be described as athletics, gave a certain amount of free training to a number of youths. Here again teams were trained free of charge by wealthy citizens.

The conditions of life in fifth-century Greece favoured a healthy physical development to a degree that we can hardly realize. It was a life of natural activity in the open air. If a Greek attended the Assembly, or a religious ceremony, or a theatrical performance, he was all the time in the open air, and more often standing than sitting. He did not spend hours in the vitiated atmosphere of halls, or churches, or theatres, nor did he sit for hours cramped at a desk or in crowded workshops and factories. His clothing was loose and let the air reach every part of his body, even when he was not partially stripped. He was abstemious in his food and drink; there was little luxury in Greece proper. Hence the heavy artificial diet of the professional athlete was the more injurious in its effects. The military training that he received as an ephebos, the conditions of ancient warfare all tended to promote activity. The Greek learnt to ride bare-back, to throw missiles and ward them off, to use his weapons and defend himself in close combat. All this was an excellent physical training. Hunting, too, was general. At Athens, indeed, owing to the increase in population and cultivation, game became scarce towards the close of the fifth century, but in most parts of Greece there were ample opportunities for hunting, especially in the Peloponnese.


Most of the Greeks lived near the sea or near some river, and in the maritime states at all events most boys, and girls too, learnt to swim and to dive and were quite at home in the water (Figs. 61–5). Not to know how to swim was as much the mark of an uneducated man as ignorance of letters. The Greek loss at Salamis, says Herodotus, was small because the Greeks could swim, and when a ship was sunk the crew swam across to the island. At Sphacteria divers succeeded in bringing provisions to the Spartans in the island by swimming under water, towing baskets behind them. At Syracuse the Athenians sent down divers to destroy the stakes which the Syracusans placed under water.⁷⁸ It was perhaps because swimming and diving were so universal, so natural to the Greeks, that we never hear of any instruction in these exercises. Children learnt to swim from one another, or from their elders, much in the same way as they learnt to walk. It was perhaps for the same reason that competitions in swimming were so rare: indeed the only competition that we hear of was at Hermione. As to the style of the Greek swimmers, it appears from representations of swimming that the Greeks preferred the hand-over-hand stroke, possibly the modern crawl, though the action of the legs as represented is not very clear. They employed also the side stroke and the breast stroke, but less frequently. They knew how to float, swim on the back, and tread water: they had games of some sort in the water.


61. SWIMMING. Detail from the François vase, Florence. Attic b.-f. volute-krater. About 560 B.C. F.R. 13. The ship is the ship of Theseus who has come to Crete to free the Athenian hostages from the Minotaur, below it is a man swimming ashore—using the crawl stroke.


62. DIVING FROM A ROCK. Scene from Etruscan wall painting in the ‘Tomba della Caccia e Pesca’. 6th century B.C. Weege, Etruskische Malerei, p. 64 ; Mon. XI, XII, xiv.


63. YOUTH PREPARING TO DIVE FROM A BOAT. Attic b.-f. oenochoe. Late 6th century. British Museum B. 508. New photograph.


64. BRONZE STATUETTE OF DIVER. Early 5th century. Munich. Photograph from Dr. Sieveking. Hekler in Jahrb. xxxi. 101 wrongly describes this as the figure of a jumper.


The somewhat scanty evidence, literary and monumental, about swimming and diving has been recently collected by Dr. Erwin Mehlin Antike Schwimmkunst, and a summary of his conclusions is given in his article on ‘Schwimmen’ in Pauly-Wissowa. From an athletic point of view the results are meagre, for though there is abundant evidence that swimming was an almost universal accomplishment of the Greeks and Romans, competitions in swimming and diving seem to have been unknown.

65. RUNNERS IN THE TORCH RACE. The runner in the centre is just about to take the torch from the runner behind him. Attic r.-f. oenochoe. About 400 B.C. Louvre. Photograph from Professor Beazley.


In the maritime states every boy must have learnt to row. At the Isthmian festival, at Athens, and many other places there were boat-races, or rather ship-races. Legend said that the first race at the Isthmian Games was won by the ship Argo. At Athens there were boat-races at various festivals. Some of these races must have been between triremes, for a speaker in Lysias claims to have won a race off Sunium with a trireme, and to have spent 15 minae on equipping it. This suggests that there were races between the ships equipped by different trierarchs. At the Panathenaic festival there was an inter-tribal race.⁷⁹ The winning tribe received 200 drachmae to pay for a feast or bump-supper, besides three oxen valued at 300 drachmae for the sacrifice. There was a second prize of 200 drachmae. Here the boats used were probably the light boats with a single bank of oars which always accompanied the triremes as tenders. These are probably the boats which we find represented in Ephebic inscriptions of Imperial times. The number of the crew varies. In one very short boat only three rowers are represented, one of whom holds a crown. On another longer boat we have five rowers. A far more suitable boat for racing is represented on a somewhat earlier stele. Here by a curious accident there is a crew of eight; they are naked and sitting at ease, and bow, who is the smallest of the crew, holds a palm branch. There is no cox, though the steering-paddle is represented. The number of rowers is clearly determined by artistic considerations of space and no reliance can be placed on such evidence (Figs. 66–8).


The life of all this athletic activity lay in the spirit of emulation and love of competition. There was little system or science of physical culture in the fifth century. The training of the palaestra had grown naturally like the games and sports of our public schools in the last century from which the modern athletic movement has developed. Its value lay in its spontaneity, in its freedom. There was no conscious balancing of light exercises and heavy, of quick exercises and slow. Such theorizing belongs to a later age when life has become more artificial and luxurious. The earliest science of gymnastic arose in connexion with the training of athletes for athletic competitions when athletics were already becoming a profession; from it developed the science of medical gymnastic, and at a later period that of educational gymnastic. Of the history of the latter we know nothing, but we can gather some idea of its character from Galen.


66–9. THREE RELIEFS FROM ATTIC EPHEBIC INSCRIPTIONS OF IMPERIAL TIMES, see P. Gardner, J.H.S. ii, pp. 90, 315 ; xi, p. 196.


66. Athens, National Museum. Svoronos, cx. 1470. At bottom of the stele relief of boat containing three men, one of whom holds a crown. At top relief referring to torch race.


67. Athens, National Museum. Svoronos, cxi. 1468. At the top of the stele, not shown in our illustration, are three figures standing, a draped figure in centre probably the gymnasiarch who trained the crew, on his right a man in a chlamys crowning him, on his left a youth bearing a palm.


68. Athens, National Museum, not shown in Svoronos. The inscription, I.G. III. i.1129, gives the names of the Archons for the year A. D. 164–5. Boat-races are not actually mentioned in the inscription. New photograph obtained for me by Mr. A. M. Woodward.


69. RELIEF from the Acropolis Museum, Athens. 4th century B.C. Photo. Alinari.


In Galen’s treatise on the Preservation of Health he discourses at length on the exercises suited to youths between the ages of fourteen and twenty. He distinguishes exercises for the legs, the arms, and the trunk. He further classifies exercises into those which exercise the muscles and give them tone without violent movement, quick exercises which promote activity, and violent exercises. As examples of the first class he mentions digging, driving, carrying heavy weights, rope-climbing, and exercises of resistance such as holding the arms extended while another person tries to pull them down. Among quick exercises he enumerates running, sparring, the use of the punch-ball, ball play, rolling on the ground ‘either alone or with others’, and a variety of leg and arm movements, many of which are well known in modern systems of physical drill. The exercise calledκπλεθρ ζειv is the familiar running figure in which the runner runs in an ever-decreasing circle till he reaches the centre. Another exercise (πιτυλ ζειv) consists in marching on the toes and at the same time swinging the arms. The leg exercises include jumping up and down and raising the legs alternately backwards and forwards. The arm exercises are the usual dumb-bell movements, performed rapidly without dumb-bells, with the hands open or clenched. Finally any of the exercises of the first class may become violent if practised rapidly and without interruption, and quick exercises become so if performed with weights or in heavy armour. Galen further lays down elaborate rules for the time of exercise and for massage both before and after exercise.

Here we have a regular treatise on physical culture very similar to those that abound in our own day. There is indeed little in our modern systems which we do not find anticipated in Greek medical writings. We do not know how far Galen’s principles were ever put into practice. But we may be sure that such physical training could not do for Galen’s contemporaries what athletics had done for their ancestors. Physical training is a valuable part of education and necessary in artificial conditions of life. But physical training is not sport, nor can it ever take the place of sport. There is no joy in it. It may develop the body and impart habits of discipline, but it cannot impart those higher qualities—courage, endurance, self-control, courtesy—qualities which are developed by our own games and by such manly sports as boxing and wrestling when conducted in the true spirit of manly rivalry for the pure joy of the contest; it cannot train boys ‘to play the game’ in the battle of life.

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