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Palaestra of Pompeii
Location: Regio II
Great or Large Palaestra of Gymnasium in Pompeii is the prototype
of an antique gym for wealthy residents of the city. Most of the
sports club is occupied by a large field, surrounded by columns and
buildings around the perimeter. A large pool was dug in the center.
Great Palaestra is located south of Via delle Abbondanza
in the eastern part of the city, near the
amphitheater. It was built
during the reign of Emperor Octavius Augustus. It is widely
believed that this large sports field was the answer of Pompeii
residents to the call of Augustus to improve the moral and physical
condition of young people in the upper classes, but there is little
evidence to support this point. Most likely it was only part of the
overall growth project of the city. Such buildings demonstrated the
wealth of the city.
The sports building has an area of 140
x 105 meters. The Great Palaestra was built as the Samnite Palaestra
could no longer accommodate the growing population of Pompeii.
Palaestra was essentially a big stadium. Intended for gymnastic
exercises and sports activities. On three sides, the vast area was
surrounded by a portico with Ionic columns. The fourth bordered
amphitheater. In the center was a swimming pool measuring 37 meters
wide and 4 meters wide with a depth of 1 meter in the west and 3
meters in the east. That is, in fact, the Romans built swimming
pools in modern design. In the southern part there are public
toilets. Part of the northern wall was destroyed during the
eruption, but was fairly easily restored so it did not crumble, but
fell in one piece.
Interestingly, a Christian cryptogram was
found on one of the columns. Although most of the inscriptions are
not very different from the modern inscriptions in the toilet. Some
inscriptions speak of sports games, the names of various gladiators
and other information are mentioned. Apparently Big Palaestra was
used for sports.
In the toilet of Grand Palaestra, archaeologists found a number
of inscriptions. Most graffiti is obscene or sexual content,
however, other inscriptions are much more meaningful. So a certain
unknown schoolteacher complains that he was not paid. There are tips
on choosing the right hairdresser and numerous references to
gladiatorial battles that occurred in the adjacent amphitheater.
These graffiti offer a much more mixed set of leisure activities.
Big Palaestra toilet must have been especially popular with the
crowd in the nearby Amphitheater, where there were no toilets. Poor
visitors fighting games had to resort here to cope with their
plaster mold (pictured on the left) from Pompeii was left by one of
the victims. The form was found in Great Palaestra under the
southern colonnade of the Great Palaestra near public toilets. He
was probably caught off guard by the eruption and frantically tried
to put on his boots and a raincoat with a hood, which he left in the
changing room. By the time he tried to get out, it was too late. The
poisonous vapor eruptions quickly killed him. Judging by the
position of the hands, he tried to close his mouth with a raincoat,
but, obviously, it did not help him much. His lifeless body was
covered with layers of volcanic ash. The body was rotted long ago,
leaving empty space that was filled with plaster. Today, its body is
stored in the Pompeii Forum, Market
Granary (Regio VII, Insula 7).
Pay attention to the plants that grow in Great Palestra. Their
location is not accidental. The fact is that during the
archaeological excavations, remains of the roots of large trees were
found here. At the time of the eruption, they were almost 100 years
old since the reign of Emperor Augustus to this Palaestra was almost
a hundred years old. The current trees were planted as they grew
during the eruption.
In the center of the sports field there was a
large pool (l) measuring 34 x 22 m and a depth of 1 m in the west to
more than 2 m in the east.