The Gymnasium

The Gymnasium,
© Ephorate of Antiquities of Phocis, Ministry of Culture and Sports

The Gymnasium was a building complex of the 4th century B.C., which comprised the xystos, the paradromis and the palaestra along with their annexes, such as the baths and changing rooms. It was situated between the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia and the fountain Castalia. Remains of archaic buildings found under the xystos of the gymnasium are probably identified with a sanctuary of Demeter (Damatrion) and possibly indicate that in earlier times the area was a cult centre for Gaia and the deities of the underworld.

The Gymnasium of Delphi was situated within the space between the fountain Castalia and the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia. Until the beginning of the excavations, the gymnasium was covered by the monastery of the Dormition of Mary, known also as "Panayia". Interestingly, in 1809 Lord Byron and his friend J.C. Hobhouse carved their names in one of its columns, which had been incorporated in the monastic complex.

The gymnasium consisted of a group of buildings, arrayed on two terraces and comprising the xystos and the “paradromis” (running couloir), 6 meters wide and 172 meters long, used by the runners; it also comprised the palaestra with all its necessary auxiliary buildings, such as the baths and the changing rooms. The construction of the gymnasium began in ca. 330 B.C., but extensions and repair works took place in various times during the Hellenistic and Roman periods, when the building was also used by orators, philosophers and poets.

Text - Translation: Dr. Aphrodite Kamara, Historian