Ancient Greece functioned as a training facility for competitors in public methods of aesthetic education of children. It was also a place for socializing and engaging in intellectual pursuits. Athletes competed nude, a practice which was said to encourage aesthetic appreciation of the male body, and to be a tribute to the gods. Heracles, Hermes and, in Athens, Theseus.
The verb had this meaning because one undressed for exercise. Pompeii gymnasium, from the top of the stadium wall. The gymnasium was formed as a public institution where young men over 18 received training in physical exercises. The supervision of the gymnasiums was entrusted to gymnasiarchs, who were public officials responsible for the conduct of sports and games at public festivals and who directed the schools and supervised the competitors. A hermaic sculpture of an old man, thought to be the master of a gymnasium. He held a long stick in his right hand. Ai Khanoum, Afghanistan, 2nd century BC.
The original iterations of gymnasia were large open areas at city outskirts, not enclosed structures. The athletic contests for which the gymnasium supplied the means of training and competition formed part of the social and spiritual life of the Greeks from very early on. The contests took place in honour of heroes and gods, sometimes forming part of a periodic festival or the funeral rites of a deceased chief. The ancient Greek gymnasium soon became a place for more than exercise.