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During the 6th century BC, the Athenians created three gymnasia outside the city walls. These gymnasia were intended for the military training of the ephebes. The Akademeia was one of these three famous gymnasia.

During the first half of the 5th century BC, Kimon funded important works to transform the precinct into a well watered grove traversed by walking paths. A racetrack was also traced and leveled.

During our period of reference (421 BC), the Akademeia (Academy), also called Hekademia in honour of Hekademos the first settler, was still a gymnasium within a sanctuary. There was a dromos (racetrack) within the precinct. The gymnasium was located to the west of Athens in the Outer Kerameikos near the Kolonos Hippios. The Academy could be reached by a road departing from the Dipylon Gate and leading through the cemetery of the "Outer Kerameikos".

The archaic sanctuary was located in a sacred wood containing the moriai (12 sacred olive trees) dedicated to Athena. Hipparchos enclosed the area with walls. The rectangular precinct measured some 450 x 300 m.

There was an old shrine dedicated to the cult of the hero Hekademos. This shrine was probably located in a sanctuary near the entrance of the Academy. There was also an altar dedicated to Hermes. Another altar dedicated to Eros and a statue of this god also stood within the precinct of the Academy.

The Academy was the departure point of the torch race, so it is very probable that altars of Prometheus and Hephaistos stood in the precinct.

Kimon undertook important works to improve the water supply from the nearby Kephissós river. He also built a gymnasium on the site.

The promenade to the Akademeia was a very popular walk among Athenians.

Later features

In 387 BC, Plato inaugurated a regular school of philosophy in this precinct.


Camp, John M.; The Archaeology of Athens, Yale University Press, 2001, p. 64

Flacelière, Robert, La vie quotidienne en Grèce au siècle de Périclès, Hachette, 1959

Travlos, John, Pictorial dictionary of Ancient Athens, Books that matter, New York, 1971, pp. 42-43, 345

To do

  1. Try to determine the aspect of the gymnasium around 421 BC.
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