The Cynosarges gymnasium was the third most important gymnasium in Classical Athens. Youths lacking Athenian parentage on both sides exercised there, while in the 4th century it became the “seat” of Cynic philosophers.

Scholarly opinion is divided with respect to the precise location of Cynosarges. One group holds that Cynosarges was located in the SW of Athens, on the modern Sygrou Avenue, close to the National Museum of Contemporary Art. Another group of scholars situate Cynosarges on the left of Ilissus River and east of the Church of Agios Panteleimon.

The Cynosarges gymnasium appears to have been inferior to the other two gymnasia of Athens, Academy and Lyceum; however its evolution is very similar to that of the two other gymnasia. From a purely athletic centre it became an educational institution. According to a work of disputed authorship, traditionally attributed to Plato, the Axiochus (364a-b, d), it appears that in addition to the Academy and Lyceum, Socrates also frequented the gymnasium at Cynosarges.

Early in the 4th cent. BC, Antisthenes, a student of Socrates and a nothos, established a school at Cynosarges, which became known as Kynikē from the gymnasium’s name. The famous Cynic philosopher Diogenes was a student of his. In the early 3rd cent. BC, Aristo of Chios taught at Cynosarges and introduced elements of early Cynic philosophy to Stoicism.

The gymnasium of Cynosarges was destroyed by Philip V of Macedon in 200 BC (Livy ΧΧΧΙ.24.17). There is no further information about the area since.

Author: Eutychia Lygouri-Tolia
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