BMCR 2005.06.10

Das hellenistische Gymnasion. Wissenskultur und gesellschaftlicher Wandel, 8

, , Das hellenistische Gymnasion. Wissenskultur und gesellschaftlicher Wandel ; Bd. 8. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2004. 465 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm.. ISBN 3050040785 €69.80.

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This book contains the proceedings from a symposium, held on the 27. -30. September 2001 in Frankfurt am Main at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität. It is also to be considered a festschrift for Klaus Bringmann, himself a contributor to the book. The aim of the book is to examine the institutional development of the gymnasion throughout Hellenistic times, a real desideratum considering the fact that Delorme’s work has already passed its 40th birthday while the source material available has grown enormously due to excavations as well as the publishing of inscriptions.1

Twenty contributions on the Hellenistic gymnasion from experts representing archaeology, history and epigraphy are framed by a thorough and precise introduction (Peter Scholtz) and wise concluding remarks (Hans-Joachim Gehrke).

The language of the contributions is straightforward (all but two are in German), benefiting from their prior oral presentation. The footnotes are comprehensive and immediately useful. The bibliography and the indices (on persons and places) are also useful tools, as well as the appendices after some of the articles. The book is sparingly illustrated, which is, of course, due to the lack of space. A map showing the many testified gymnasia of Ptolemaic Egypt by century is among the few, but very useful figures (Habermann p. 337).

There are four main topics:

Part one: The gymnasion as an educational institution — on gymnastics and agonistics (Ingomar Weiler), military training (Daniel Kah and Miltiades B. Hatzopoulos), Sparta (Johannes Engels), primary and further education (Peter Scholtz).

Part two: The gymnasion in the polis — on euergetai (Walter Ameling), the gymnasiarchy (Christof Schuler), the Athenian ephebeia (Leonhardt Burckhardt and Stephen V. Tracy), the neoi (Boris Dreyer), requirements for admission (Jörn Kobes), polis-cults in the gymnasion (Sophia Aneziri and Dimitris Damaskos), banquets (Elena Mango).

Part three: The gymnasion in the Greek East — on the gymnasion’s importance in the Hellenization of the East (Kirsten Gross-Albenhausen), gymnasion and Greek education in the Near East (Klaus Bringmann), Ptolemaic Egypt (Wolfgang Habermann).

Part four: The equipment of the gymnasion — architecture and statues (on the architectural history (Christian Wacker), some archaeological observations (Wulf Raeck), sculpture, the cases of Delos and Pergamon (Ralf von den Hoff), and Samos (Wolfram Martini).

It is agreed that the gymnasion came into existence in the archaic period to satisfy the aristocratic desire for a place to train and compete in sport — the gymnasion served as a vehicle for the aristocratic life style. Its use for military purposes is considered secondary even if, already in the 5th century, the Greeks realised its worth in that regard also. So when during the 4th century the ephebeia became a reality as a formal training of the polis’ male youth for the military, it was to a great extent concentrated in the gymnasia and included the training in sports already habitually connected with the gymnasion.

Also, the spiritual character of the young men was formed here by lectures in rhetoric, philosophy and history, even if the gymnasion was neither the only nor even the primary place for such activities. The gymnasion became a place for representation and transmission of the values of the polis. It became a second Agora, a place for many cultic activities like hero-cult, a lieu de mémoire. That was also the case where gymnasia came into being outside mainland Greece. The gymnasion must have served as a means for integration as well as for segregation.

It is not only these and more main-stream conclusions that make the book indispensable. It is the way they are documented. The authors bring forth much new material and discuss it in a clear and competent way with no fear of addressing the most central and difficult questions, e.g., Who were required to use the gymnasia, who chose to use them, and who were excluded? These questions are valid for central parts of the Greek mainland as well as for the inner Asia Minor. The happy choice of authors and respondents is a guarantee against any tendency to generalize from e.g. Macedonian Beroia to the rest of the Hellenistic world. Variation according to locality and time is demonstrated.

In discussing the function of the gymnasion outside mainland Greece, Klaus Bringmann considers the concept of self-hellenization essential: gymnasion and polis-constitution constituted the Greek political way of life. Bringmann underlines the attraction which the gymnasion lent to the elite also in mixed or quite non-Greek communities in the Near East and sees an important dividing-line between cultural and political “self-hellenization”, the former being a sine qua non for obtaining the latter. He also emphasizes that cultural “self-hellenization” — both elementary and advanced — was mediated first and foremost by the many often wandering, private teachers and had little or nothing to do with the gymnasion. The gymnasion on the other hand belonged to the political sphere and functioned exclusively as the school for Greek citizens-to-be. Well documented Jewish reactions to the gymnasion form part of the evidence for Bringmann’s conclusions. But the newly published inscription from Phrygian Tyriaion is used as a further corroboration of his thesis.2

It is the great advantage of this book that each author, e.g. Klaus Bringmann, can concentrate on writing an illuminating and clear-cut article and be content to refer to several co-authors for different and supplementary treatments (in this case Gross-Albenhausen, Kobes, Habermann, Gauthier).

The editors regret that they were not able to include a contribution on music and dance in the Hellenistic gymnasion. That really is a deficiency, and we must hope for a supplement in the shape of an article. Meanwhile, I am happy to be able to recommend this impressive book without any other reservations.


Ameling, W., Wohltäter im hellenistischen Gymnasion (129-161)

Aneziri, S., and Damaskos, D., Städtische Kulte im hellenistischen Gymnasion (247-272)

Bringmann, K., Gymnasion und griechische Bildung im Nahen Osten (323-334)

Burckhardt, L., Die attische Ephebie in hellenistischer Zeit (193-206)

Dreyer, B., Die Neoi im hellenistischen Gymnasion (211-236)

Engels, J., Das Training im Gymnasium als Teil der Agoge des hellenistischen Sparta (97-102)

Gehrke, H.-J., Eine Bilanz: Die Entwicklung des Gymnasions zur Institution der Sozialisierung in der Polis (413-419)

Gross-Albenhausen, K., Bedeutung und Funktion der Gymnasien für die Hellenisierung des Ostens (313-323)

Habermann, W., Gymnasien im ptolemäischen Ägypten — eine Skizze (335-348)

Hatzopoulos, M.B., La formation militaire dans les gymnases hellénistiques (91-96)

Hoff, R. von den, Ornamenta γυμνασιώδη ? Delos und Pergamon als Beispielsfälle der Skulpturenausstattung hellenistischer Gymnasien (373-406)

Kah, D., Militärische Ausbildung im hellenistischen Gymnasion (47-90)

Kobes, J., Teilnahmeklauseln beim Zugang zum Gymnasion (237-246)

Mango, E., Bankette im hellenistischen Gymnasion (273-312)

Martini, W., Bemerkungen zur Statuenausstattung der hellenistischen Gymnasien (407-411)

Raeck, W., Archäologische Randbemerkungen zum griechischen Gymnasion (363-372)

Scholtz, P., Elementarunterricht und intellektuelle Bildung im hellenistischen Gymnasion (103-128 )

Scholtz, P., Einführung (11-24)

Schuler, Ch., Die Gymnasiarchie in hellenistischer Zeit (163-192)

Tracy, S.V., Reflections on the Athenian Ephebeia in the Hellenistic Age (207-210)

Wacker, Ch., Die bauhistorische Entwicklung der Gymnasien. Von der Parkanlage zum “Idealgymnasion” des Vitruvs (349-362)

Weiler, I., Gymnastik und Agonistik im hellenistischen Gymnasion (25-46)


1. Delorme, J., Gymnasion, Paris 1960.

2. Jonnes, L. & Rickl, M., A New Royal Inscription from Phrygia Paroreios: Eumenes II Grants Tyriaion the Status of a Polis, EA 29, 1997, 1-30.