gymnasium at Cyrene

Remains of the gymnasium at Cyrene.

Gymnasium was originally the name given in ancient Greece to the public places (larger than a palaestra) where Greek youth used to exercise and receive instruction (from gymnos, "naked"). They were equipped with running and wrestling grounds, baths, and rooms or halls for conversation. They were frequented by teachers, especially philosophers. The three great gymnasia of Athens were the Academy, where Plato taught; the Lyceum, where Aristotle taught; and the Cynosarges.


The Greek institution was never very popular with the Romans, and it was not until the 18th and 19th centuries that the approach of combining physical with intellectual activity again found a place in educational systems. English took over the athletic, German, French, and Italian the educational connotations of the word.