ancient gymnasium, Egypt,
Facebook/ Ministry of Antiquities وزارة الآثار

A 2,300-year-old ancient gymnasium has been discovered by archaeologists. Dating back to the Greek or Hellenistic period, this structure is present at around 80 kilometres (50 miles) southwest of Cairo in Egypt.

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This gymnasium was found by a team of German and Egyptian archaeologists at Watfa in Fayoum province. The second king of the Greek-ruling Ptolemaic dynasty -- Ptolemy II -- had founded Watfa in third century BC, which is the site of the ancient village of Philoteris.

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Ayman Ashmawi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector, said the gymnasium comprises a large meeting hall, which was once decorated with statues, and it had a courtyard, a dining hall. Beside the gym, there was a racetrack which was around 200-meter-long.

According to Cornelia Römer, the excavation's leader, this ancient gym was paid for by rich people to make their village to look similar to Greek, a statement revealed.

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Greek-speaking young men of upper class used the gym for learning to read and write, getting trained in sports, and philosophical debates, Römer elucidated.

Ancient gyms were also found in other Hellenistic cities which included Pergamon and Miletus in Asia Minor and Pompeii in Italy.

"The gymnasium in Philoteris is smaller than most, but it shows that Greek culture had permeated into even the Egyptian countryside," said Römer, as reported by Live Science.

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The newly unearthed gymnasium was situated far from the only Greek structure present in Philoteris.

Many Greek settlers had shifted to Egypt post Alexander the Great's invasion as they were tempted by the promise of peace and prosperity, the Ministry of State for Antiquities revealed.

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"The delta near Philoteris was already a popular residence for Egyptians, and it soon became a home for Greek newcomers. Indeed, when it was founded, Philoteris had about 1,200 inhabitants; two-thirds of them were Egyptians, and one-third of them were Greek-speaking settlers," the ministry said, as quoted by Live Science.

Egyptian temples, Greek sanctuaries and public baths were found by the archaeologists in numerous villages like Philoteris. The baths were a Greek custom which was used by both the Greek-speaking inhabitants and Egyptians.

"While the new find is exciting, it wasn't a complete surprise," said Römer.

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Archaeologists already knew of inscriptions and papyri that indicated the Egyptian countryside had gymnasiums during the Ptolemaic period, the ministry said. There is also evidence of payments for the construction of gymnasiums and notes about the men who governed these institutions.