"It is not just etymology that links the ancient gymnasion with its modern successor. Like today's gym members, freeborn Athenian men and boys went to the city's public gymnasia to perform aesthetic training, that is, exercises that enabled them to achieve or maintain the bodily ideal that was visibly glorified in the city's public art. And for good reason: male nudity was no mere artistic convention in classical Athens, as it would be in neoclassical London, Paris or Berlin. It was obligatory during local and Pan-Hellenic competitions, such as the Panathenaic and Olympic Games and while training at the gymnasium. It was a common sight, too, during religious festivals. To cite one sculptural example, the western section of the Parthenon frieze (most of which is now in the British Museum) shows athletic young cavalrymen, naked except for a himation rakishly carried over one arm or thrown back over the shoulders, preparing to ride out in the Greater Panathenaic pompe."
- Eric Chaline, author of The Temple of Perfection: A History of the Gym.
See more at: http://www.historytoday.com/eric-chaline/panathenaic-way-fitness
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