What was a palaestra?
A palaestra was a building in ancient Greece where wrestling was taught and practiced. The word palaestra is based on the Greek word pale, which means wrestling. From the sixth century BC through the end of the Roman Imperial age, palaestras were built throughout Greece. The earliest ones were privately owned, but by the fifth century BC public ones were being built. Almost every Greek city had at least one palaestra and some large cities had several.
Palaestras were often located near or were attached to gymnasiums. The gymnasium probably first appeared in the sixth century BC. Both were often referred to simply as "the gymnasium". Greek historian, biographer, and essayist Plutarch writes that a palaestra was used solely for wrestling and the pankration, a sport similar to but much rougher than wrestling. Boxing was taught and practiced in the gymnasium. Retired athletes owned and operated small palaestras. Greek males of all ages joined palaestras. Elderly (old) men sometimes had their own palaestras.