GYMNASIUM, a place fitted for performing exercises of the body.
The word is yvavaatov, formed of yvprog, naked; because they anciently put off their clothes, to practise with the more freedom.
Among the ancients, the gymnasium was a public edifice destined for exercise, and where people were taught, and regularly disciplined, under proper masters.
According to Solon, in Lucian's Anacharsis, and Cicero, De Orat. lib. ii. the Greeks were the first who had gymnasia ; and among the Greeks, the Lacedannonians; after them the Athenians, from whom the Romans borrowed them.
There were three principal gymnasia at Athens: the Academy, where Plato taught ; the Lyceum, famed for Aristotle's lectures; and the Cynosargus, allotted to the populace.
Vitruvius describes the structure and form of the ancient gymnasia, lib. v. cap. 2. They were called gymnasia, because the champions performed naked; and palmstrec, from wrestling; which was one of the most usual exercises there: the Romans sometimes also ealled them Thermce, because the baths and bagnios made a principal part of the building.
It appears, that so early as the time of Homer, they did not perform their exercises quite naked, but always in drawers; these they did not lay aside before the thirty.se cond Olympiad. One Orsippus is said to have been the first who introduced the practice : for having been worsted, by means of his drawers undoing and entangling him, he threw them quite aside, and the rest afterwards imitated him.
The gymnasia consisted of seven members, or apartments. M. Burette, after Vitruvius, recites no less than twelve. viz. 1. The exterior portico, where the philosophers, rhetori cians, mathematicians, physicians, and other virtuosi, read public lectures, and where they also disputed, and rehearsed their performances. 2. The epItcbeum, where the youth assembled very early, to learn their exercises in private, without any spectators. 3. The coryceum, apodyterion, or gymnusterion, a kind of wardrobe, where they stripped, either to bathe or exercise. 4. The elteothesium, alipterion, or unctuarinnt, appointed for the unctions. which either pre ceded or followed the use of the bath, wrestling, paneratia, &c. 5. The conisterium, or conist•a. in which they covered themselves with sand, or dust, to dry up the oil, or sweat.
6. The pakstra, properly so called, where they practised wrestling, the pugillate, paneratia, and divers other exercises.
7. The sphaTisterium, or tennis-court, reserved for exercises wherein they used balls. S. Large unpaved alleys, which comprehended the space between the porticos and the walls wherewith the edifice was surrounded. 9. The systi, which were porticos tor the wrestlers in winter, or bad weather. 10. Other xysti, or open alleys, allotted for summer and fine weather, some of which were quite open, and others planted with trees. 11. The baths, consisting of several
different apartments. 12. The stadium, a large space of a semicircular form, covered with sand, and surrounded with seats for the spectators. For the administration of the gymnasia, there were divers officers : the principal were, 1. The gymnasiarch, who was the director and superintendent of the whole. 2. The xystarch, who presided in the xystus or stadium. 3. The gymnasia, or master of the exercises, who understood their different effects, and could accommodate them to the different complexions of the athlete. 4. The padotriba, whose business was mechanically to teach the exercises, without understanding their theory or use. Under these four officers were a number of subalterns, whose names distinguished their different functions.
As to the kinds of exercises practised in the gymnasia, they may be reduced to two general classes, as they depend either on the action of the body alone, or as they require external agents or instruments. The former are chiefly of two kinds, orchcstice and ixthestrice.
The orchestice comprehended, 1. Dancing, 2. Gubistice, or the art of tumbling. 3. Splucristice, or tennis, including all the exercises with pike, or balls.
The palccstrice comprised all exercises under the denomi nation of pahestra ; as wrestling, boxing, pancratia hoplo machia, running, leaping, throwing the discus, the exercise of the javelin, and that of the hoop, denominated by the Greeks poxof, which consisted in rolling an iron hoop live or six feet in diameter, beset with iron rings, the noise of which appris ing the people to give way, afforded them also an amusement. Both strength and skill were requisite in directing this hoop, which was to be driven with an iron rod.
To these must also be added the exercises belonging to the medicinal gymnastics, as 1. Walking. 2. Vociferation, or shouting. 3. Holding one's breath.
The bodily exercises, which depended on external agents, may be reduced to mounting the horse; riding in a chaise, or other wheeled vehicle ; rocking in beds or cradles, and sometimes swinging : to which may be added, the art of swimming. Hoffman enumerates no less than fifty-five sorts of gymnastic exercises.
The term g ymnasium has descended to modern times. In Geri 11 any, the higher schools, intended especially as hnme diately preparatory to the universities, are termed gymnasia. Schools the improvement of bodily strength, grace, or agility, are also called gymnasia. Within the last few years small portions of the newly-formed parks in the neighbour hood of London have been set aside for this purpose, and provided with the proper appurtenances for gymnastic exercises. To these the ancient word gymnasium is still applied.