Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Gymnastics

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GYMNASTICS, exercises of the body and limbs which tend to invigorate and develop their power. Gymnastic games are of very ancient origin. They are mentioned in the second book of the “Iliad,” where playing at quoits and javelin hurling are mentioned. Later on games of this kind were dedicated to the gods, and the rewards being called “athla,” gave origin to the name “athletes,” applied to those who contend for them.

Shortly before the time of Hippocrates, gymnastics were made a part of medicine, and gradually they were reduced into a complete system. Public buildings, called “gymnasia,” were erected for the purpose, and officers for their superintendence were appointed by the state. Among the exercises practiced in these gymnasia were dancing, wrestling, boxing, running, leaping, quoit-throwing, hurling, riding, driving, swimming, rowing, climbing ropes, swinging, mock fights of various kinds, etc. It is only since the commencement of the 19th century that gymnastic exercises have been revived as a science.