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GYMNASTICS
I Grecian. The art of physical exercises, so called because the Greeks practised them unclothed (gymnos). Various exercises of the kind, carried on in view of contests on festive occasions, are mentioned as early as Homer. After the Homeric time they were, at all periods, widely practised among the Greeks, and more so after they were legally prescribed as part of the regular educational course, especially at Athens and Sparta. They were, moreover actively encouraged by the great national games, particularly the Olympian games, of which they formed the chief part. Heracles and Hermes were the tutelary gods of gymnastics, which attained in Athens their highest and most varied development. The object of the art was to develop the body harmoniously in health, activity, and beauty. Boys went through certain preliminary stages of gymnastics in the paloestroe, a carried on their further training to perfection in the gymnasia. (See GYMNASIUM The different kinds of exere ses were as follows: (1) Running (dromos or stadion). This was the oldest of all, and for a long time the only one practised in the public games. In later times, indeed, it stood at the head of the list. The course was either single (stadion, nearly the eighth of a mile), or double (diaulos). The runner was sometimes equipped with helmet and greaves, but in later times only with the latter. The hardest of all was the long course or dolichos. This was a distance of 24 stadia, between two and three English miles, which had to be run without stopping. (2) Leaping (halma). This included the high and wide jump, and jumping downwards. To strengthen the power of spring and secure the equilibrium of the body, especially in leaping downwards, it was common to use piece of iron called halteres, not unlike our dumb-bells. (3) Wrestling (pale). This was the piece de resistance of the Greek gymnastic. The combatants were allowed certain tricks which are now forbidden, as throttling, pushing, and twisting the fingers. Standing upright, each wrestler tried to throw the other down, and if one of them was thrown thrice, he was regarded as beaten, unless the contest was continued on the ground. In this case the one who was thrown tried to get up, while the other tried to hinder him, until he owned himself vanquished. Before all gymnastic exercises the body was well rubbed with oil to make the limbs supple. But before wrestling it was also sprinkled with dust, partly to afford a firm hold, partly to prevent excessive perspiration. (4) Discobolia, or throwing the discus. (See Discus.) (5) Throwing the javelin (akontismos). These five exercises together formed the pentathlon, or set of five, in which no one was accounted victorious who had not conquered in all. Besides these there was (6) The dangerous game of boxing (pyx,pygme). In this the combatants struck out with each hand alternately, their hands being bound round with thongs so as to leave fingers and thumb free to form a clenched fist (See engraving). Athletes often fitted the thongs with strips of sharp and hardened leather, or with nails and leaden knobs. The blow was directed against the upper part of the body, head, and face. (7) The Pancration was a combination of boxing and wrestling, but nothing was worn on the hands, and the blow was delivered, not with the clenched fist, bat with the fingers bent. This exercise was not introduced into the public games until 650 B.C. Indeed, the two latter exercises were generally confined to the professional athletes. (See ATHLETES.) In Sparta they were not practised at all. II Roman. Among the Romans from the oldest times until the imperial period, the youths used to assemble for exercises in the Campus Martins, the object of the exercises being exclusively to prepare them for military service. (See EDUCATION.) The Greek gymnastic was not introduced at Rome until the decline of Roman tradition had set in, and professional athleticism had become fashionable. The Roman sense of propriety was offended by the Greek practice of exercising unclothed, and the only game which they really adopted was that of throwing the discus.

Pictures and Media
METHOD OF DISCHARGING THE JAVELIN WITH THE AID OF AN ammentum, OR THONG. (Vass in British Museum: Rev. Arch., 1860, ii 211.)
BOXER. (Dresden.)
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