The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Gymnasium

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GYMNASIUM (ancient gymnasia). The term “gymnasium” was originally applied by the Greeks to the exercise ground or public training school for men over the age of 18. It consisted of spacious grounds partly planted, but embracing open spaces for a variety of athletic games and contests. The whole space was surrounded by terraces, colonnades and rooms for punching the sack, anointing, bathing and dressing, and was ornamented by statuary of gods and heroes. As the instructors in the gymnasia had to be paid, the places were patronized principally by the well-to-do. The young men engaged vigorously in the athletic games and exercises while the older men were spectators or critics, or perhaps participants in the discussions and lectures that formed an important part of the activities of the place. From the original gymnasium of the Greeks several modern institutions have taken names as well as educational methods. From the suburban gymnasium called the Academy (q.v.) where Plato started his discussion forum and courses of free lectures, came the modern academy; from another gymnasium called the Lyceum, in which Aristotle established his lectures, we have the French lycée and the English and American lyceum. The Germans emphasizing the intellectual side of the Greek institution use the term “gymnasium” to designate their classical secondary school; while the English-speaking peoples with greater propriety have adopted the Greek word to name the modern institution for physical culture and development.