Vedius Gymnasium is one of the best-preserved buildings that can be seen in Ephesus. It was built between 147 and 149 CE, commissioned by a wealthy Ephesian with a long name of Claudius Publius Vedius Antoninus Phaedrus Sabinianus and his wife, Flavia Papiane. They dedicated the gymnasium to goddess Aphrodite, and their friend and protector — Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius.
The building, of impressive dimensions of 135 to 85 meters, served a dual function of a gymnasium and baths, as is often the case in the architecture of Roman times. The palestra with the propylaea (monumental gate), on its southern side, was located to the east of this complex. The palestra was surrounded by covered arcades of the courtyard, where various sports disciplines were practised, especially wrestling. The porticoes served as auxiliary facilities: locker rooms, warehouses, and changing rooms. The propylaea were once adorned with statues, and its western side housed a toilet.
On the western part of the colonnade that surrounds the palestra, there is a large room that opened onto the inner courtyard. It was used for ceremonial purposes and reserved for the emperor during his visits. It housed the now-lost statue of Antoninus Pius. In the area of the palestra, the statue depicting the sophist was found, dated to the 2nd century CE.
The largest room in the gymnasium extended along the entire width of the building on the eastern side. It was used for physical exercises. The room located in the centre of the building served as the frigidarium, i.e. the part of the baths designed for swimming in cold water. The frigidarium was decorated with the statue of the god of the River Kaistros, who was pouring water into the pool from the amphora. Today, the statute on display in Izmir Archaeological Museum. On the western side of the frigidarium, there was the tepidarium, i.e. the room with warm water.
In the basement, there were furnaces, where a fire was burning all the time, heating the air that circulated through channels under the floor and inside hollow bricks in a room called caldarium — the hot room. These furnaces also heated the water supplied to water tanks in this room.
The building was later renovated, around the year 400 CE, and was still functioning until the late the 5th century. It was then abandoned, and its pools were intentionally filled in. The interior of the gymnasium was stripped of the marble veneer. This empty structure was later destroyed by a great fire in the 6th century. As the Vedius gymnasium and bathing complex remains the only one of such compounds in Ephesus investigated in great detail, it is not certain if all these places shared a similar fate. It is possible that by the late 5th century, large bathing complexes were replaced by smaller-scale baths, such as the one added to the Church of St. Mary.
This text is a fragment of a guidebook to Ephesus: "The Secrets of Ephesus".
Vedius Gymnasium is currently closed to visitors but it can be see from the road linking Dr. Sabri Yayla Boulvarı with the lower entrance to Ephesus.