Features of the Gymnasium in Sardis
In this large (six hundred by one hundred fifty feet) open area in front of the Marble Court, physical education was done on the sand floor. Smaller rooms around the outside were also used for physical training, conditioning (weights and calisthenics), skill development (discus, javelin, jumping), and cardiovascular training (running). Also in these rooms the students relaxed with massage and oil treatments after their exercise and classroom learning.
Located on the outside of the open area, this school for academics provided rooms in which students learned and recited lessons. There were three levels of education: elementary (boys and girls ages five through twelve who studied reading and writing); secondary (boys and girls ages twelve to sixteen who studied philosophy, math, science, and music); and advanced (boys sixteen through adulthood who studied philosophy, medicine, music and science).
The Marble Court
This three-story, colonnaded courtyard was dedicated to the cult of the Roman emperor, believed to be the guardian of the truth being taught and exemplified in his life. All learning was devoted to him. Many niches in the walls served as pediments for statues. In the main apse was a statue of the emperor, who was honored with sacrifices and ceremonies during the educational process.
The Bath Complex
In the western section was the largest pool, the heated caldarium. East of this was a large, central hall and the warm pool (tepidarium). A nearby oblong hall held the cold pool (frigidarium) where students completed their bathing. There were also fountains in niches in the walls.
Holding more than one thousand people (estimated), this is the largest synagogue ever found in the ancient world. It was not part of the original gymnasium and was added later, just after the time of the New Testament. Here, impressive mosaic floors added to the beauty of the structure and testify to the community’s wealth. More than eighty inscriptions have been found in the synagogue that indicated that some Jews had significant statues and wealth in Sardis and that others were Gentile coverts.
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