Ancient Gymnasium & Stadium

Ancient Greek,
Free entrance
General location
Kos town
Free, walk-in, last entrance 19:30.

Ancient Gymnasium

The area also know as "western archeological zone", north of the Roman odeon, houses one of Kos' three ancient gymnasiums. Gymnasiums (the term refers to "high schools") were centres of athletic and intellectual activity during ancient Greece. Their use continued during the Roman years, when thermae (baths) were added and new roads were constructed.

In 1938, 17 columns of white marble were discovered that constituted remains of the ancient gymnasium of Kos. It was later discovered that the gymnasium was 200 meters long and 120 meters wide, with an open peristyle courtyard.

Ancient Gymnasium & Stadium

Western Archeological Zone

The western archeological zone is a part of the city that was abandoned in the Middle Ages and throughout the Age of Knights. When it was later excavated, it revealed some of the most important discoveries of Kos. Located opposite from the ancient theatre, the western archeological zone includes: 

  • The port's Thermae, built around the 3rd century BC.

  • The northern Thermae, dating back to the 3rd century BC, with a long hall which has fallen, covering the floor in several places. 

  • The ancient stadium, from the first half of the 2nd century BC, right in front of the chapel of Agia Anna (St. Anna). The length of the stadium could not have been more than 180 meters long, while its width was about 30 meters wide. Its construction began in the 4th to 3rd century BC, boasting Doric and Ionic architectural influences.

  • The Ksiston Road or Ksistos Dromos of the gymnasium, from the first half of the 2nd century BC, located south of the stadium. 

  • The paved road (Cardo), dating back to the 3rd century A.D. 

  • The western Thermae, located between the gymnasium and the paved road (Cardo), dating back to the 3rd century A.D. 

  • The limestone arcade, of the 4th - 3rd century BC

  • The Forica of Thermae or Nymphaeum, excavated in 1938 and restored in 1940. 

  • The arcades’ road (Decumanus), 10.50 meters wide - 4.45 meters of which were the carriage road.

  • Several building blocks with mosaic houses and other findings, including traces of reconstruction (following the earthquake of 142 AD) of an earlier Hellenistic house.

Ancient Stadium

Significant athletic events 

The ancient stadium of Kos was a single area with gymnasiums, palaces (schools of ancient Greek wrestling) and thermae (baths). Located a bit further north, in front of the chapel of Agia Anna (St. Anna) and southwest of the ruins of the northern Thermae, the ancient stadium of Kos belongs to the first half of the 2nd century BC and was discovered in 1899-1900 by the German archeologist R. Herzog, who first discovered the so-called "aphesis", i.e. the "starting line" of the athletes.

Ancient Gymnasium & Stadium
'Aphesis' of the ancient stadium, from the book "La presenza Italiana del Dodecaneso"

Later, in 1928, the Italian archeologist Luciano Laurenzi found travertine seats in the west, arranged in several rows, which confirmed the identification of the findings with the stadium. During Morricone's excavations (1937-1940), no seat was found in its original position, but findings revealed that the length of the stadium could not have been more than 177,60 meters long and 29,60 meters wide, according to the dimensions of the "aphesis". The architecture of the stadium combines Doric and Ionic elements and its construction certainly begun during the first construction period (4th-3rd century BC). In the Hellenistic period, seats had been built only on the eastern side while during the Roman period, seats were also added on the western side. 

The ancient stadium of Kos is where the most significant athletic events of Kos were held in honour of Zeus and Athena. The ancient stadium of Kos has several geomorphological features in common with the ancient stadium of Olympia, which was also dedicated to Zeus.

Walk right into the Western Archeological Zone through the central Leof. Grigoriou V Str., almost opposite the Roman Odeon. Second entrance is at the intersection of 31st Martiou Str. & M.Alexandrou Str. The ancient stadium is located in the city center of Kos, at the intersection of 31st Martiou and M. Alexandrou streets.
Need to know
The architecture of Ksiston Road from the western gymnasium of Kos presents great detail and characteristics, showing that Kos was able to compete in splendor with other new kingdoms’ capitals of the Hellenistic East.
Don't miss
Next to the Western Thermae, on the northern end of the excavation surface, there is a room whose floor is decorated with one of the largest mosaics ever found in Kos!
Did you know?
The mosaic of the abduction of Europe
Did you know?

The Western Archaeological Zone revealed a mosaic that depicts the Abduction of Europe, into a house that was later named the "House of Europe". Europe is held firmly by the neck and ribs of a bull, which according to mythology is Zeus, and guided by a small child holding a torch. Europe's Abduction is recreated in the modern sculpture seen at the entrance of Kos town.

More photos!
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36.8911492, 27.2846849
Footnotes / Source

"History of Kos, Second Volume - "From the Roman years until the end of the Knights' Age" by C. Manoleri, M. Panagou and E. Marselou.

Kos Island Greece