Gymnasium of Theatre

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At the beginning of Harbor Street sits an Ephesian bath-gymnasium complex. This building was constructed in the 2nd century AD and was devoted to the goddess Artemus and the emperor Antonius Pius. This structure has been known by many names. It is popularly called the Theatre Gymnasium due to it’s close location to the Theatre. It has also been called the Harbour Gymnasium because of it’s location at the beginning of Harbour street. Sometimes it is referred to as the Gymnasium of Vedius because the complex was constructed by Publius Vedius Antoninus and his wife Flavia Pappiana.

Gymnasiums were an important part of Roman culture. The facilities were the major educational centers in the city, used for training in mental and physical activities. They taught the young men of Ephesus art, sports, literature, drama and speech. Because of it’s close proximity to the theatre, the Theatre Gymnasium is thought to have been used to train theatre actors.

The palaestra, or place of exercise, was a open field of 30 meters by 70 meters surrounded on three sides by covered columns. The columns would have been covered by marble. There was a tribune with four rows of stairs constructed on the north of the gymnasium. A separate field was available for standing spectators. From the excavations visitors can see that the sports complex had a bath, a large meeting room for classes, lobbies, recreation rooms, and halls for training.

The excavation of the gymnasium is incomplete, but part of the baths have been uncovered. Archaeologists have discovered a pool in the frigidarium with the statue of the god of the River Kaistros. Water would have poured from the amphora the god rests on into the cold water pool.  The complex also had a Hall of Emperors with mosaic decorated floors and statues of the emperors. These statues are now on display in the Izmir Archaeological Museum.

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