Gymnastics; exercises of the body which were proposed for the restoration and preservation of health, and for the cure of diseases. They were of Greek origin; and are so called from the word naked; for they were performed by naked men in the public games. These exercises were originally designed to accustom the youth to feats of activity and strength. War was a laborious occupation from the weight of the armour, and strength must be acquired by exertion, and supported by constant exercise. The games were consequently connected with their religion, and victory in them was politically rendered an object of the highest importance.
- Palmaque nobilis
Terrarum dominos evehit ad Deos.
The gymnastic art had attained no considerable degree of perfection in the days of Homer, as we find from the description of the games at the funeral of Pa-troclus. It was introduced, however, into medicine only about the time of Hippocrates, or rather a little before his era by Herodicus, probably his father. The gymnastics of the warriors were too violent for the diseased, or even for the preservation of health in those not naturally strong; and Hippocrates, in his work on regimen, speaks of exercise in general, of walking, of races either on foot or horseback, leaping, wrestling, the corycus, or exercising the suspended ball, with the usual additions of unctions, frictions, and rolling in the sand. Boxing, the pancratia, hoplomachia, running, quoits, the exercise of the ball, hoop, and javelin, driving the chariot, and swimming, seemingly required too great exertion to be admitted into the medical department; though walking, vociferation, recitation, and holding the breath, seem to have been among the medicinal gymnastics. Hoffman mentions fifty-five kinds of medicinal exercises, which it were tedious to enumerate. Vide in loco.
The AEgyptians considered gymnastics not necessary; they thought that by them a genuine health was not procured, but in its stead a short-lived strength, highly dangcrous.to young people. See Hieronymus Mercu-rialis de Arte Gymnastica Fabri Agoniston; Fuller's Medicina Gymnastica; Hoffman de Athletis Veterum, vol. v. p. 377, etc.