The ancient city of Eretria accommodated two public buildings of the the 4th century B.C. with peristyles court interpreted as palestrae for the military, physical and intellectual education of the young Eretrians. The South Palestra was excavated in 1917 in the south-eastern area of the town near the harbour. This late Classical building consists of a large courtyard with three porticoes and some additional rooms, one of which is identified by inscriptions as a sanctuary of the kourotrophic goddess Eileithyia. This cult place suggests that the palestra was probably restricted to young boys (“paides”). In the late 4th century, a gymnasionwas built on the slopes of the acropolis and probably devoted to the “epheboi”, “neoi” and “presbyteroi”. The identification of the building as the gymnasion of the city as well as the attendance of ephebes are attested by several inscriptions. This second palestra was unearthed by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) between 1891 and 1895 and trial excavations were carried out by the Swiss School of Archaeology in Greece (ESAG) between 1992 and 1994. Restoration works conducted by the Ephorate of Antiquities of Euboea in 2014 revealed a second adjoining building to the east with several rooms organized around a courtyard. The Gymnasion of Eretria is therefore a larger complex than previously thought, consisting of two interdependent buildings with peristyles courtyards.
In the summer of 2015 the Swiss School started a program of excavations in the Gymnasion. This paper presents the results of the first campaign, which have renewed the history and the plan of the building, with a focus on two distinctive features: first the original layout of two bathing exedrae with basins used for shower- and foot-bath, and second the unique design of the palestra with two adjacent courtyards. We will discuss their possible use by different age groups (“paides”, “epheboi”, “neoi” and “presbyteroi”) who attended the palestrae of the city during the Hellenistic period.