The Afternoon at the Gymnasia
Despite all the training in polite conversation which young men are supposed to receive at the gymnasium, the object of the latter is after all to form places of athletic exercise. The Athenians are without most of these elaborate field games such as later ages will call "baseball" and "football"; although, once learned, they could surely excel in these prodigiously. They have a simple "catch" with balls, but it hardly rises above the level of a children's pastime. The reasons for these omissions are probably, first, because so much time is devoted to the "palæstra" exercises; secondly, because military training eats up about all the time not needed for pure gymnastics.
The "palæstra" exercises, taught first at the boys' training establishments and later continued at the great gymnasia, are nearly all of the nature of latter-day "field sports." They do not depend on the costly apparatus of the twentieth century athletic halls; and they accomplish their ends with extremely simple means. The aim of the instructor is really twofold—to give his pupils a body fit and apt for war (and we have seen that to be a citizen usually implies being a hoplite), and to develop a body beautiful to the eye and efficient for civil life. The naturally beautiful youth can be made more beautiful; the naturally homely youth can be made at least passable under the care of a skilful gymnastic teacher.
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Reference address : https://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/ancient-greece/old-athens-gymnasia.asp?pg=11