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The Gymnopaedia, in ancient Sparta, was a yearly celebration during which naked youths displayed their athletic and martial skills through the medium of war dancing. The custom was introduced in 668 BC, concurrently with the introduction of naked athletics.
The word Gymnopaedia derives from the ancient Greek Γυμνοπαιδίαι, composed of the words γυμνός (gymnos, "naked" or "unarmed") and παιδιά "game" from παῖς (pais, "child" or "youth"). In Greek the plural form, Γυμνοπαιδίαι, appears most often.[full citation needed]
In addition to gymnopaedia, modern transliterations and adaptations include gymnopaidiai (mostly older translations of Greek texts, maintaining a plural form for the word), gymnopaidiae (Latinized plural form), gymnopedia, gymnopaedie (in German), and gymnopédie (in French, including Erik Satie's Gymnopédies).
The word Gymnopaedia appears in texts of Herodotus, and several authors in the Attic and Koine Greek periods. While for the earliest of these authors the meaning of Gymnopaedia appears predominantly as a festival (including dances, sports, and other activities), in later antiquity gymnopaedia refers to a specific dance.
The festival, celebrated in the summertime, was dedicated to Apollo According to Plutarch, the festival was also dedicated to Athena. Plato praises gymnopaedia-like exercises and performances in The Laws as a medium of education: by dancing strenuously in the summer heat, Spartan youth were trained in both musical grace and warrior grit simultaneously.
The Gymnopaedia was also held in memory of Sparta's defeat by Argos at Hysiai in 669 or 668 BC. By recognizing their defeat, the Spartans hoped to appease the gods and prevent future defeats. The military style of dancing reinforces the emphasis on military success in Spartan society.
In ancient Greece, sports were generally reserved for men, and were performed gymnos (naked). Aristophanes' plays and other sources suggest that women in Sparta also exercised publicly in the nude. Some modern opinion, therefore, suggests that this festival included the dancing of young women to show their strength and worthiness to give birth to strong men, and also to promote eugenic marriage and population growth, with which Sparta would later struggle.
Public performance of such sports generally took place in a ceremonial setting, such as of a religious feast. While not all ceremonial sports were competitive, some included an element of competition for the most beautiful movement, or for speed or strength. Many sports in ancient Greece resembled dance more than they did modern track and field competitions.
Eight centuries after the first gymnopaedia, it the festival survived in Lacedaemonia into the Roman era. According to Lucian of Samosata's dialogue Of Pantomime, it retained some connection to martial arts, as the youths would engage in gymnopaedia immediately after their daily military training.[full citation needed] On the other hand, he describes the gymnopaedia as "yet another dance", neither involving nudity nor exclusivity for men.[full citation needed]
- Spartan pederasty
- For the pyrrhic dance, a war dance spread throughout Ancient Greece, see Korybantes
- Gymnopédie, 19th century music and poetry referring to gymnopaedia; particularly the three piano compositions by the French composer Erik Satie.
- Meursius, Johannes (Loozduynen, 1579 - Soroe, 1639): Orchestra, sive de saltationibus veterum, Leiden 1618
- Reprint of the 1745 Florentine edition + comments, updates (in English) by Frits Naerebout and Alkis Raftis, Joannes Meursius and his "Orchestra, sive de saltationibus veterum" of 1618. Dutch Dance Studies, 3., (Theatre of Greek Dances) Dora Stratou, Athens (distributed by the Pauper Press), 2003, 85 pg., ISBN 960-86150-5-4
- Muller Jzn., F. and Thiel, J.H., Beknopt Grieks-Nederlands woordenboek, Wolters Groningen, 2nd edition (20th century, after 1919)
- Müller, Otfried, Die Dorier, 1824
- Xenophon, Polity of Athenians and Lacedaemonians, 4th/5th century BC
- William Smith - Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities:
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