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Bill Thayer

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Gymnasium Neronis

Article on p249 of

Samuel Ball Platner (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby):
A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome,
London: Oxford University Press, 1929.

Gymnasium Neronis: a building for gymnastic purposes, dedicated by Nero in 62 A.D. (Suet. Nero 12: dedicatisque thermis atque gymnasio senatui quoque et equiti oleum praebuit; Tac. Ann. XIV.47: gymnasium eo anno dedicatum a Nerone praebitumque oleum equiti ac senatui Graeca facilitate), or in 60 after the establishment of the Neronia (Cass. Dio LXI.21.1: καὶ ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ καὶ τὸ γυμνάσιον ῷκοδόμησεν ἐλαιόν τε ἐν τῇ καθιερώσει αὐτοῦ καὶ τοῖς βουλευταῖς καὶ τοῖς αγωγεῦσι προῖκα ἔνειμε). Later in 62 the gymnasium was burned and a bronze statue of Nero melted (Tac. Ann. XV.22). Philostratus (vit. Apoll. iv.42) says that it was one of the most wonderful buildings in the city.

There are no other references to this gymnasium, but it would be natural to suppose that it was near or connected with the Thermae (q.v.), which Nero is said to have dedicated at the same time (Suet. loc. cit.). The language of Philostratus seems to make no distinction between γυμνάσιον and βαλανεῖον, so that no inference can be drawn from it as to the existence or non-existence of the gymnasium in his time. Hülsen therefore assumes (HJ 590) that the gymnasium was an integral part of the baths, and that gymnasium and thermae were names of the same structure. In view of what is said of the burning of the gymnasium (Tac. Ann. XV.22), it is more probable that they were separate buildings.1

The Authors' Note:

1 It is more correct to say that what Vitruvius (V.10) describes are baths pure and simple,a to which Nero added the Greek gymnasium. It is to be noted that Cass. Dio calls the thermae of Nero, Trajan, and Licinius Sura γυμνάσιον, and those of Agrippa βαλανεῖον or λακωνικόν (PT 26; RA 38, 82; Journ. Brit. Amer. Arch. Soc. Rome iv.353; Mitt. 1920, 154‑168).

Thayer's Note:

a Vitruvius: the reference cited, his brief chapter on baths, does not mention any particular building.

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Page updated: 4 Feb 09