Gymnastics is the practice of athletic exercises for the development of the body, especially those exercises performed with apparatus such as rings, pommel horse, bars, and balance beam. Although gymnastics was likely practised in ancient Egyptian and Chinese cultures, its roots for Western culture lie in ancient Greece, hence the derivation from the Greek word gymnazein, which literally means ‘to train naked’ (gymnos: naked). The early Greeks practised gymnastics in preparation for war, as jumping, running, discus throwing, wrestling, and boxing helped produce the strong, supple muscles necessary for hand-to-hand combat. Because military training was necessary for the production of Greek citizens, and because the Greeks viewed the training both of the body and the mind as inextricably linked, gymnastics became a central component of ancient education. Gymnasia, the buildings with open-air courts where such training took place, evolved into schools where youths learned gymnastics, rhetoric, music, and mathematics. Gymnastics also provided a way to train for the athletic festivals around Greece, the most famous of which was the Olympic Games, held every four years from 776 bce until 393 ce.

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