Fitness History – Ancient civilization (Part 3)

ancient civilisation

The Middle East (4000 -. 250 BC)

ancient middle east

Early on, politicians and military leaders of the civilization of Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Palestine, Persia and Syria have realized the importance of fitness for the efficiency and effectiveness of military force. The fitness was encouraged in society. Perhaps the best example of a civilization that used the fitness for political and military objectives was the Persian Empire. Persian leaders demanded a strict physical fitness from its people through a hard training program. At the age of 6, boys was the property of the Empire and were training including hunting, walking, horse riding and javelin throwing. Fitness training increased strength and endurance was not a health criterion, the aim was to create soldiers able to help to expand the Empire. The Persian Empire during his best years with its policy and insisting on a high fitness finally conquered the entire Middle East. However, this requirement on a high fitness through Persia civilization fell because of influences and corruption between politicians and military leaders. The fall and the end of the Persian Empire came when the Persian people was characterized by a low fitness.

Ancient Greek Civilization (2 500-200 BC.)


ancient athens

Maybe no other civilization had such a high esteem of fitness as ancient Greece. The ideals of physical perfection was the main theme of the Greek civilization. The appreciation of the beauty of the body and the importance of health and fitness throughout society was unprecedented in history. The Greeks believed that the body development was also important that the mind development. Physical well-being was necessary for mental well-being with the need for a strong and healthy body to harbor a healthy mind. Many doctors have facilitated the growth of fitness throughout ancient Greece as Herodicus, Hippocrates and Galen.

Gymnastics and music were considered the most important subjects in school. A common saying in ancient Greece is « Exercise for the body and music for the soul ». The gym was in Palaestra who were physical education places for young boy. The palaestra consisted of an indoor facility for gymnastics and outdoor space to running, jumping and wrestling. When adulthood was reached, typically between the ages of 14 and 16, the site for fitness changed from palaestra to gymnasium. Exercises in the palaestra and the gymnasium was supervised by the « paidotribe » which was similar to the modern fitness coach. This idealistic fitness situation was very strong in Athens much more than a similar democratic society like the United States of America.



The Spartans of Northern Greece still had more esteem for fitness than the Athenians. However, the greatest interest for fitness with the Spartan culture was for military purposes. During this era, the state of Greece was frequently at war. Fighting skills were strongly linked to physical fitness levels, it was very important for people to maintain a high fitness level. Spartan society required men to make a special fitness program at the age of 6 years old. From that age until adulthood, the government was responsible for the children education and training. This education was a rigorous training program which ensured that all boys would turn into a soldier with excellent physical condition. It was also required women to maintain a good physical condition to be able to have strong children who could serve the state. The strong military culture of Sparta culture resulted in one of the most physically fit societes in the history of mankind.

That’s all for today. Soon the rest of fitness history. 


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