Who Was Allowed to Go to the Gym in Ancient Greece?

When we think of ancient Greece, we often imagine muscular men engaged in physical activity. And rightfully so!

Athletics were an integral part of Greek culture, and gymnasiums were a common sight in ancient Greek cities. However, not everyone was allowed to go to the gym.

Who were allowed to go to the gym?

In ancient Greece, gymnasiums were exclusively for males. Women were not allowed to participate in sports or any form of physical exercise in public. They had separate facilities known as the gynaikonitis, where they could engage in physical activities with other women.

Apart from gender restrictions, only free-born citizens were allowed in the gymnasiums. Slaves and foreigners were barred from entering these facilities. This was because physical education was seen as a vital part of a citizen’s education, and only those who had the privilege of being citizens were given access to it.

What happened in the gymnasiums?

The gymnasiums served as a hub for physical training and intellectual pursuits. Wrestling and boxing were popular events in these facilities, along with running, jumping and discus throw. These activities not only helped develop physical strength but also fostered mental toughness and discipline.

Apart from sports, philosophy and literature discussions also took place in the gymnasiums. The Greeks believed that a sound mind is essential for a healthy body, and so intellectual pursuits went hand-in-hand with physical training.

What did they wear in the gym?

Athletes wore very little clothing while training in the gyms. They mostly worked out naked or wore loincloths known as perizoma or himantes (a long strip of cloth wrapped around their waist). This was done to allow freedom of movement during exercises.

The legacy of Ancient Greek Gymnasiums

The ancient Greek concept of combining physical activity with intellectual pursuits has had a significant impact on modern-day education. The word “gymnasium” itself means “school for naked exercise,” and the term has carried over into the modern-day as a place for physical fitness.

In conclusion, gymnasiums in ancient Greece were exclusive facilities, open only to free-born male citizens. Women and slaves were not allowed in these facilities.

Physical training was combined with intellectual pursuits, and athletes mostly worked out naked or in loincloths. The legacy of ancient Greek gymnasiums has had a profound impact on modern-day education, with the concept of physical fitness being an essential part of school curriculums worldwide.