The ancient Greeks were a fascinating society. Among numerous reasons, their appreciation of the human form was, and to some, (myself included) still unparrelled.
Part I of my eBook series Inventing Fitness, Amazon.com begins with the origins of physical fitness universally credited with the ancient Greeks.
“Within the ancient Greek society a fit body represented a fit mind. Exercise was no fad, but Civic duty and gymnasiums institutions of higher learning”
No need to get your wallets out, these public buildings were funded by the state, and overseen by Gymnasiarchs. Today we call them General Managers, however, in antiquity they were much more and served in these positions with great honor. As a young boy progressed in age so did his level of training and education. Discipline was essential in the formauon of a future citizen, a soldier, a future leader.
In our 21st century clubs we tend to follow an unwritten rule of avoiding certain topics and conversations, and go about our routines keeping to ourselves. 2500 years ago after generations of legends, young men began to focus on logic, morals, and ethics. They came to discuss important matters and what was on their minds.
Around the world
- Basque – Gymnasion
- Danish – Gym
- Dutch – Sportschool
- French – Gym
- German – Fitnessstudio
- Italian – Palestra
- Lithuanian – Sports sale
- Portugese – Academia
- Turkish – Jimnastik
- Swahili – Mazoezi
Nicknamed the “Godfather of Fitness,” Jack Lalanne first began training at the YMCA in Berekely, California. He opened one of the nation’s first gyms in Oakland, CA in 1936. Initially perceived as not only a fanatic, but a charlatan. Health professionals of the day warned to stay out of his facility.
He lived to be 96.
Throughout the ancient greek society the gymnasium was one of the most important structures within a city, and over time became institutions of higher learning and social interaction.
In fact, a great deal went on at the gym.
Derived from the word gymnos, or greek for naked, the bluprint of the gymnasium seems to have taken shape somewhere within the 6th century BCE. All follow the same basic floor plan of a large center courtyard surrounded by colonnades and lower lying buildings. As the preeminent sport was wrestling, attached was a Palaestra, or wrestling school.
The ancient greeks learned the connection between mind and body early on and so, a young boys education would start with attention to health and physical strength. The gym was his school. The gymnastai were his teachers. These ancient personal trainers oversaw every aspect of a students formation.
Below is a pair of ancient dumbbells, called Halteres. They sit in the National Archeological Museum of Athens.
Carved from stone with handles at the top, they were used for helping an athletes long jump. This method is clearly seen depicted on terra cotta pots dating back to the 5th century BCE.
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