Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities says archaeologists have discovered the first-ever ancient gymnasium that dates back about 2,300 years, from the Hellenistic period.
According to Ahram Online, the gymnasium was used during the Ptolemaic period for training young Greek-speaking men in sports, literacy and philosophy.
The gymnasium was discovered by a German-Egyptian mission at the site of Watfa in Fayoum province, about 80 kilometers, or 50 miles, southwest of the capital, Cairo. Watfa is the site of the ancient village of Philoteris, founded by King Ptolemy II in the 3rd century BC.
The gymnasium consists of a large meeting hall, once adorned with statues, a dining hall, a courtyard and a nearly 200-meter-long racetrack, Ayman Ashmawi of the ministry says.
The upper class Greek people would not only train in sports but also enjoy philosophical discussions and learn to read and write.
All big cities of the Hellenistic world, like Athens in Greece, Pergamon and Miletus in Asia Minor, and Pompei in Italy, had such gymnasia.
“The gymnasia in the Egyptian countryside were built after their pattern. Although much smaller, the gymnasium of Watfa clearly shows the impact of Greek life in Egypt, not only in Alexandria, but also in the countryside,” Professor Cornelia Römer, head of the mission said.
This discovery is just one in a series of recent finds in Egypt. A colossal statue initially believed to depict Pharaoh Rameses the Great was found earlier this year. At the time, experts called it one of Egypt’s “most important discoveries”.
Few days ago scientists announced that they had located a mysterious “void” inside the Great Pyramid of Giza.