The Gymnasion in the Hellenistic East: Motives, Divergences, and Networks of Contacts
By Dorothea Stavrou
PhD Dissertation, University of Leicester, 2016
Abstract: This thesis is a socio-cultural study of the Greek gymnasion in the Hellenistic period: its development, the factors that underpinned its adoption, and the role of native educational practices in that process. Focusing on the Seleukid and Ptolemaic kingdoms, it presents a parallel study of the gymnasion in each. It investigates the motives behind its adoption, the differences between gymnasia, the networks of contacts that were constructed through them, and their impact on the opening up of the institution to non-Greeks.
Chapter 1 sets out the research framework and presents the findings of recent scholarship on the gymnasion and on the participation of non-Greeks. It gives an account of the sources, the problems of the evidence, the methodology, and the research questions. Chapter 2 begins with an account of the types of cities and other settlements that fostered the institution of the gymnasion, highlighting how their diversity influenced its diffusion and maintenance. Next the military and cultural roles of the gymnasion are reviewed and conclusions drawn about the variety of educational programmes it offered and its role as a unifying element in elite society.
Chapter 3 presents the network of interpersonal relations created in gymnasia. The first section presents rulers’ policy and demonstrates the variable picture of royal benefaction and communities’ reciprocation of royal goodwill. The next examines the internal community of the gymnasion, the roles of gymnasiarchs, and relations between various groups of participants.
Chapter 4 examines the participation of non-Greeks and the impact of Greek education upon non-Greek communities. It proposes a new approach to the gymnasion, viewing it as a continuation of pre-existing concepts of education. It views the cultural borrowings and common educational elements among ancient civilizations as laying the foundation for a cultural bridge between Greeks and non-Greeks in the gymnasion.