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p579 Gymnasium

Article by various authors, on pp579‑584 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

GYMNA′SIUM (γυμνάσιον). The whole education of a Greek youth was divided into three parts: grammar, music, and gymnastics (γράμματα, μουσική, and γυμναστική, Plato, Theog. p122; Plut. de Audit. 17; Clitoph. p497), to which Aristotle (de Republ. VIII.3) adds a fourth, the art of drawing or painting. Gymnastics, however, 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, though those of an advanced age naturally took lighter and less fatiguing exercises than boys and youths (Xen. Sympos. I.7; Lucian, Lexiph. 5). The ancients, and more especially the Greeks, seem to have been thoroughly convinced that the mind could not possibly be in a healthy state, unless the body was likewise in perfect health, and no means were thought, either by philosophers, or physicians, to be more conducive to preserve or restore bodily health than well-regulated exercise. 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 (see the authorities in Wachsmuth, Hellen. Alterth. vol. II p354 2d edit., and Becker, Charikles, vol. I p316).

The great partiality of the Greeks for gymnastic exercises was productive of infinite good; they 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 that power and elasticity which will ever be admired in all their productions (Lucian, de Gymnast. 15). The plastic art in particular must have found its first and chief nourishment in the gymnastic and athletic performances, and it may be justly observed that the Greeks would never have attained their preeminence in sculpture had not their gymnastic and athletic exhibitions made the artists familiar with the beautiful forms of the human body and its various attitudes. Respecting the advantages of gymnastics in a medical point of view, some remarks are made at the end of this article. But we must at the same time confess, that at a later period of Greek history when the gymnasia had become places of resort for idle loungers, their evil effects were no less striking. The chief objects for which they had originally been instituted were gradually lost sight of, and instead of being places of education and training they became mere places of amusement; and among other injurious practices to which they gave rise, the gymnasia were charged, even by the ancients themselves, with having produced and fostered that most odious vice of the Greeks, the παιδεραστίαa (Plut. Quaest. Rom. 40 vol. II p122 ed. Wyttenb.; compare Aristot. de Republ. VIII.4; Plut. Philop. 3).

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 [Athletae and Agonothetae]. Both originated in the gymnasia, in as far as the athletae, as well as the agonistae were originally trained in them. The athletae, however, afterwards formed a distinct class of persons unconnected with the gymnasia; while the gymnasia, at the time when they had degenerated, were in reality little more than agonistic schools, attended by numbers of spectators. On certain occasions the most distinguished pupils of the gymnasia were selected for the exhibition of public contests [Lampadephoria], so that on the whole there was always a closer connection between the gymnastic and agonistic than between the gymnastic and athletic arts. In a narrower sense, however, the gymnasia had, with very few exceptions, nothing to do with the public contests, and 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 we shall consider them 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 (Paus. I.39 § 3), but according to Galen it seems to have been about the time of Cleisthenes 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 p580from 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. Athens alone possessed three great gymnasia, the Lyceum (Λύκειον), Cynosarges (Κυνόσαργης), 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, we must infer that there were many differences in their detail. The most complete description of a gymnasium which we possess, is that given by Vitruvius (V.11), which, however, is very obscure, and at the same time defective, in as far as many parts which seem to have been essential to a gymnasium, are not mentioned in it. Among the numerous plans which have been drawn, according to the description of Vitruvius, that of W. Newton, in his translation of Vitruvius, vol. I, fig. 52, deserves the preference. The following woodcut is a copy of it, with a few alternations.


[image ALT: The plan of an elaborate four-sided colonnaded building. It is an ancient Greek gymnasium, as explained in detail in the text of this webpage.]

The peristylia (D) in a gymnasium, which Vitruvius incorrectly calls palaestra, are placed in the form of a square or oblong, and have two stadia (1200 feet) in circumference. They consist 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 by one-third longer than broad. On the right is the Coryceum (G), perhaps the same room which in other cases was called Apodyterium; then came the Conisterium (H) adjoining; and next to the Conisterium, in the returns of the portico, is the cold bath, λοῦτρον (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), the object of which is unknown. 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). 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 to 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 12 feet; by this means those who walk about the margins in their apparel will not be annoyed by those who are 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 to the ξυστός (R) and double portico (S), are the uncovered walks (U), which in Greek are called παραδρομίδες, to which the athletae, in fair weather, go from the winter-xystus, to exercise. Beyond the xystus is the stadium (W), so large that a multitude of people may have sufficient room to behold the contests of the athletae.

It is generally believed that Vitruvius in this description of his gymnasium took that of Naples as his model; but two important parts of other Greek gymnasia, the apodyterium and the sphaeristerium, are not mentioned by him. 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 (Aeschin. c. Timarch. p38). Another law of Solon excluded slaves from gymnastic exercises (Aeschin., c. Timarch. p147; Plut. Solon, 1; Demosth. c. Timocrat. p736). 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 p581by 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 (Böckh, Corp. Inscript. n. 246 and 2214). The education of boys up to the age of sixteen was divided into the three parts mentioned above, so that gymnastics formed only one of them; but during the period from the sixteenth to the eighteenth year the instruction in grammar and music seems to have ceased, and gymnastics were exclusively pursued. 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 (Plat. De Rep. V p452; Xen. Sympos. II.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 (Plat. Lys. p206). These changes, and the laxitude in the superintendence of these public places, caused the gymnasia to differ very little from the school 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 (Becker, Charikles, vol. I, p341).

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 (Plat. De Leg. VII p806).

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 entrusted with the whole management of the gymnasia, and with every thing connected therewith. His office was one of the regular liturgies like the choregia and trierarchyº (Isaeus, De Philoctem. her. p154); 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,b and perhaps with the wrestlers' dust. It also devolved upon him to adorn the gymnasium or the place where the agones took place (Xen. De Rep. Athen. I.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, &c.) 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 (Aeschin. c. Timarch.). Another part of his duties was to conduct the solemn games at certain great festivals, especially 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. p510) ten, one from every tribe (compare Demosth. c. Philip. p50, c. Boeot. p996; Isaeus, De Menecl. c42). 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 (Plut. 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 12 or 13 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 extend their duties differed from the Athenian gymnasiarchs. In Cyrene the office was sometimes held by women (Krause, Gymnastik und Agonistik d. Hellenen, p179, &c.).c

Another office which was formerly believed to be connected with the superintendence of the gymnasia, is that of Xystarchus (ξυστάρχος). But it is not mentioned previous to the time of the Roman emperors, and then only in Italy and Crete. Krause (Ib. p205, &c.) has shown that this office had nothing to do with the gymnasia properly so called, but was only connected with the schools of the athletae.

An office which is likewise 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 (Krause, Ib. p211, &c.).

An office of very great importance, in an educational point of view, was that of the Sophronistae (σωφρονίσται). Their province was to inspire the youths 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 (Etymol. Magn. s.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. At the time of the emperor Marcus Aurelius only six Sophronistae, assisted by as many Hyposophronistae, are mentioned (Krause, Ib. p214, &c.).

The instructions in the gymnasia were given by the Gymnastae (γυμνασταί) and the Paedotribae (παιδοτριβαί); at a later period Hypopaedotribae were added. The Paedotribes was required to possess a knowledge of all the various exercises which were performed in the gymnasia; the Gymnastes was the practical 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 (Galen. De Valet. tuend. II.9.11; Aristot. Polit. VIII.3.2). These teachers were usually athletae, who had left their profession, or could not succeed in it (Aelian, V. H. II.6; Galen, l.c. II.3, &c.).

The anointing of the bodies of the youths, and p582strewing them with dust, before they commenced their exercises, as well as the regulation of their diet, was the duty of the aliptae [Aliptae]. These men sometimes also acted as surgeons or teachers (Plut. Dion c1). Galen (l.c. II.11) 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. But among all the different tribes of the Greeks the exercises which were carried on in a Greek gymnasium were either mere games, or the more important exercises which the gymnasia had in common with the public agones in the great festivals.

Among the former we may mention, 1. The ball (σφαίρισις, σφαιρομαχία, &c.), which was in universal favour with the Greeks, and was here, as at Rome, played in a variety of ways, as appears from the words ἀπόῤῥαξις, ἐπίσκυρος, φαιωίνδα or ἁρπαστόν, &c. (Plat. De Leg. VII p797; compare Gronov. ad Plaut. Curcul. II.3.17, and Becker, Gallus, I p270). Every gymnasium contained one large room for the purpose of playing at ball in it (σφαιριστήριον). 2. Παίζειν ἑλκυστίνδα, διελκυστίνδα, or δια γραμμῆς, was a game in which one boy, holding one end of a rope, tried to pull the boy who held the other end, across a line marked between them on the ground. 3. The Top (βέμβηξ, βέμβιξ, ῥόμβος, στρόβιλος), which was as common an amusement with Greek boys as in our own days. 4. 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. 5. 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 toward 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 (Hesych. s.v.). 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), πένταθλος, λαμπαδηφορία, dancing (ὀρχήσις), &c., are described in separate articles.

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 (Plut. 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 (Cic. ad Att. I.4, c. Verr. III.5). The emperor Nero was the first who built a public gymnasium at Rome (Sueton. Ner. 12); another was erected by Commodus (Herod. 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.

For a fuller account of this important subject, which has been necessarily treated with brevity in this article, the reader is referred to Hieronymus Mercurialis, De Arte Gymnastica, Libri VI, 1st ed. Venice, 1573, 4th ibid. 1601; Burette, Histoire des Athlètes, in the Mém. de l'Acad. des Inscript. I; G. Löbker, Die Gymnastik der Hellenen, Münster, 1835; Wachsmuth, Hellen. Alterth. vol. II p344, &c. 2d edit.; Müller, Dor. IV.5 § 4, &c.; Becker, Gallus, vol. I 270, &c.; Charikles, vol. I pp309‑345; and especially J. H. Krause, Die Gymnastik und Agonistik der Hellenen, Leipzig, 1841; Olympia, Wien, 1838; Die Pythien, Nemeen &c., Leipzig, 1841. The histories of education among the ancients, such as those of Hochheimer, Schwarz, Cramer, and others, likewise contain much useful information on the subject. [L.S.]

The Relation of Gymnastics to the Medical Art. — The games of the Greeks had an immediate influence upon the art of healing, because they considered gymnastics to be almost as necessary for the preservation of health, as medicine is for the cure of diseases (Hippocrates, De Locis in Homine, vol. II p138, ed. Kühn; Timaeus Locrensis, De Anima Mundi, p564, in Gale's Opusc. Mythol.). It was for this reason that the gymnasia were dedicated to Apollo, the god of physicians (Plut. Symp. VIII.4 § 4). The directors of these establishments, as well as the persons employed under their orders, the bathers or aliptae, passed for physicians, and were called so, on account of the skill which long experience had given them. The directors, called παλαιστροφύλακες, regulated the diet of the young men brought up in the gymnasia; the school-directors or Gymnastae, prescribed for their diseases (Plat. de Leg. XI p916); and the inferiors or bathers, aliptae, iatraliptae, practised blood-letting, administered clysters, and dressed wounds, ulcers, and fractures (Plat. De Leg. IV p720; Celsus, de Medic. I.1; Plin. H. N. XXIX.2). Two of these directors, Iccus, of Tarentum, and Herodicus, of Selymbria, a town of Thrace, deserve particular notice for having contributed to unite more closely medicine and gymnastics. Iccus, who appears to have lived before Herodicus (Olymp. LXXVII Stephan. Byzant. s.v. Ταράς, p693; compare Paus. VI.10 § 2), gave his chief attention to correcting the diet of the wrestlers, and to accustoming them to greater moderation and abstemiousness, of which virtues he was himself a perfect model (Plat. de Leg. VIII p840; Aelian, Var. Hist. XI.3; Id. Hist. Animal. VI.1). Plato considers him, as well as Herodicus, to have been one of the inventors of medical gymnastics (Plat. Protagor. § 20 p316; Lucian, De Conscrib. Hist. p583§ 35, p626). Herodicus, who is sometimes called Prodicus (Plin. H. N. XXIX.2), lived at Athens a short time before the Peloponnesian war. Plato says that he was not only a sophist (Plat. Protag. l.c.), but also a master of the gymnasium (Id. Rep. III p406), and physician (Id. Gorg. § 2 p448), and in fact he united in his own person these three qualities. He was troubled, says the same author, with very weak health, and tried if gymnastic exercises would not help to improve it; and having perfectly succeeded, he imparted his method to others. Before him medical dietetics had been entirely neglected, especially by the Asclepiadae (Id. Rep. III p406). If Plato's account may be taken literally (Id. Phaedr. p228), he much abused the exercise of gymnastics, as he recommended his patients to walk from Athens to Megara and to return as soon as they had reached the walls of the latter town.1 The author of the sixth book De Morb. Vulgar. (Hippocr. Epidem. VI c3 vol. III p599) agrees with Plato: "Herodicus," says he, "caused people, attacked with fever, to die from walking and too hard exercise, and many of his patients suffered much from dry rubbing." A short time after we find, says Fuller (Medicina Gymnastica, &c. Lond. 1718, 8vo), that Hippocrates (De Vict. Rat. III vol. I p716), with some sort of glory, assumes to himself the honour of bringing that method to a perfection, so as to be able to distinguish πότερον τὸ σιτίον κρατέει τοὺς πόνους, ἢ οἱ πόνοι τὰ σιτία, ἢ μετρίως ἔχει πρὸς ἄλληλα, as he expresses it. Pursuant to this, we find him in several places of his works recommending several sorts of exercises upon proper occasions; as first, friction or chafing, the effects of which he explains (De Vict. Rat. II p701), and tells us, that in some cases it will bring down the bloatedness of the solid parts, in others it will incarn and cause an increase of flesh, and make the part thrive. He advises (ibid. p700) walking, of which they had two sorts, their round and straight courses. He gives his opinion (ibid. p701) of the Ἀνακινήματα, or preparatory exercises, which served to warm and fit the wrestlers for the more vehement ones. In some cases he advises the Παλή, or common wrestling (ibid.), and the Ἀκροχειρία, or wrestling by the hands only, without coming close, and also the Κωρυκομαχία, or the exercise of the Corycus, or the hanging ball (see Antyllus, apud Mercur. de Arte Gymn. p123); the Χειρονομία, a sort of dexterous and regular motion of the hands, and upper parts of the body, something after a military manner; the Ἀλίνδησις, or rolling in sand; once (ibid. p700) we find mentioned, with some approbation, the Ἤπεριορι Ἵπποι, Equi Indefiniti, by which is probably meant galloping long courses in the open field.

As for Galen, he follows Hippocrates in this, as closely as in other things, and declares his opinion of the benefit of exercises in several places; his second book "De Sanitate Tuenda," is wholly upon the use of the strigil, or the advantage of regular chafing: he has written a little tract, Περὶ τοῦ διὰ Μικρὰς Σφαίρας Γυμνασίου, where body and mind are both at the same time affected. In his discourse to Thrasybulus, Πότερον Ἰατρικῆς ἢ Γυμναστικῆς ἔστι τὸ Ὑγιεινόν, he inveighs against the athletic and other violent practices of the gymnasium, but approves of the more moderate exercises, as subservient to the ends of a physician, and consequently part of that art. The other Greek writers express a similar opinion; and the sense of most of them in this matter is collected in Oribasius's "Collecta Medicinalia." In those remains which are preserved of the writings of Antyllus, we read of some sorts of exercises that are not mentioned by Galen or any former author; among the rest the Cricilasia as the translators by mistake call it, instead of Cricoëlasia. This, as it had for many ages been disused, Mercurialis himself, who had made the most judicious inquiries into this subject (De Arte Gymnastica, 4to. Amstel. 1672), does not pretend to explain; and I believe, says Freind (Hist. of Physic, vol. I), though we have the description of it set down in Oribasius (Coll. Medic. VI.26), it will be hard to form any idea of what it was.

The ancient physicians relied much on exercise in the cure of the dropsy (compare Hor. Epist. I.2.34 "Si noles sanus, curres hydropicus"), whereas we almost totally neglect it (Alexander Trallianus, De Medic. IX.3 p524, ed. Basil.) Hippocrates (De Internis Affection. sect. 28 vol. II p518) prescribes for one that has a dropsy ταλαιπώριαι, or fatiguing-exercises, and he makes use of the same word in his Epidemics, and almost always when he speaks of the regimen of a dropsical person, implying, that though it be a labour for such people to move, yet they must undergo it; and this is so much the sense of Hippocrates, that Spon has collected it into one of the new Aphorisms, which he has drawn out of his works. Celsus says of this case (De Medic. III.21 p152, ed. Argent.), "Concutiendum multa gestatione corpus est." The Romans placed great reliance upon exercise for the cure of diseases; and Asclepiades, who lived in the time of Pompey the Great, brought this mode of treatment into great request. He called exercises the common aids of physic, and wrote a treatise on the subject, which is mentioned by Celsus in his chapter "De Frictione" (De Medic. II.14 p82), but the book is lost. He carried these notions so far, that he invented the Lecti Pensiles (Plin. H. N. XXVI.8) or hanging beds, that the sick might be rocked to sleep; which took so much at that time, that they came afterwards to be made of silver, and were a great part of the luxury of that people; he had so many particular ways to make physic agreeable, and was so exquisite in the invention of exercises to supply the place of medicine, that perhaps no man in any age ever had the happiness to obtain so general an applause; and Pliny says (ibid. c7) by these means he made himself the delight of mankind. About this time the Roman physicians sent their consumptive patients to Alexandria, and with very good success, as we find by both the Plinys; this was done partly for the change of air, but chiefly for the sake of exercise by the motion of the ship; and therefore Celsus says (De Medic. III.22 p156), "Si vera Phthisis est, opus est longa navigatione;" and a little later he makes Vehiculum and Navis to be two of the p584chief remedies. As for the other more common exercises, they were daily practised, as is manifest from Celsus, Caelius Aurelianus, Theodorus Priscianus, and the rest of the Latin physicians. And we do not want instances of cures wrought by these means. Suetonius (Calig. c3) tells us that Germanicus was cured of a "crurum gracilitas," as he expresses it (by which he probably means an Atrophy) by riding; and Plutarch, in his life of Cicero, gives us an account of his weakness, and that he recovered his health by travelling, and excessive diligence in rubbing and chafing his body (compare Cic. Brut. c91). Pliny (H. N. XXXI.33) tells us Annaeus Gallio, who had been consul, was cured of a consumption by a sea voyage; and Galen gives us such accounts of the good effects of particular exercises, and they were practised so universally by all classes, that it cannot be supposed but they must have been able to produce great and good effects. However, from an attentive perusal of what we find on this subject in the classical authors, the reader can hardly fail of being convinced that the ancients esteemed gymnastics too highly, just as the moderns too much neglect them; and that in this, as in many other matters, both in medicine and philosophy, truth lies between the two extremes. [W.A.G.]


The Author's Note:

1 "The distance from Athens to Megara was 210 stadia, as we learn from Procopius (Bell. Vand. I.1). Dion Chrysostom calls it a day's journey (Orat. VI).º Modern travellers reckon eight hours (Dodwell, Class. Tour, vol. II p177); Cramer, Anc. Greece, vol. II sect. 13, p430.


Thayer's Notes:

a Pederasty, or sexual relationships between men and boys, usually teenagers; which most of us today would call the sexual abuse of boys.

b Enough oil was involved to provide profitable opportunities for embezzlement: Strabo, XIV.5.14.

c For the gymnasiarchs at Alexandria, see Bevan, The House of Ptolemy, p104.


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