The gymnasion was one of the most important institutions of the Greek polis, and accordingly controlled by prominent public magistrates, usually called gymnasiarchoi. Ten years ago, Christof Schuler’s published an excellent overview of the Hellenistic gymnasiarchia that expounds its general features but could not address its historical development in detail. This evolution cannot easily be assessed because in the predominantly inscriptional sources it is difficult to distinguish between local differences, historical mutations and shifts in epigraphic habit.
For this reason, the present paper will try a regional focus on cities in the Dodecanese and Caria during the later Hellenistic age and the early Empire. The region has a rich epigraphic material on gymnasia and gymnasiarchiai, namely for Rhodes and Cos, but also for smaller poleis on the mainland. Even given local peculiarities, a regional comparability should result from the direct political and cultural influence of Rhodes. The paper will address several points: (1) The emergence of multiple gymnasia respectively specialized gymnasiarchiai. (2) The possible transfer of control over the gymnasion from the polis towards its users. (3) The institutional shift of the gymnasiarchia from a public office towards a liturgy.