GYMNASIUM (γυμνάσιον, a place for exercise; γυμνός, G1218, naked). In Greece the gymnasium was originally a place of training for the Olympic games and other athletic contests. By the 4th cent. b.c. it had become as well an educational and cultural center for Gr. youths, and was regarded as an essential feature of a city. It derived its name from the fact that the competitors exercised naked. The gymnasium consisted of a number of large buildings, which contained not merely places for each kind of exercise—running, boxing, wrestling, discus throwing, etc.—but also baths, a covered portico for practice in bad weather and in wintertime, and outside porticos where philosophers and writers gave public lectures and held disputations. Most of the education of boys and young men was obtained in gymnasiums. In Athens there were three great gymnasiums, each consecrated to a particular deity, and each made famous by association with a celebrated philosopher: the Academy, where Plato taught; the Lyceum where Aristotle held forth; and the Cynosarges, which was the resort of Antisthenes and his followers, the cynics.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)