Philostratus, an Athenian born around AD 170, was a successful orator and scholar in Athens and Rome. About 207, he even came into contact with the imperial court.
This Philostratus is probably the author of five works. There is, however, discussion about the authorship, because there were several men named Philostratus writing literature in the Roman empire.
About AD 220, Philostratus wrote a book about Greek athletics, titled ‘Gymnastikos’. In this work, he focused on the profession of ‘gymnastes’ or trainer. Philostratus competently describes several physical exercises and stresses the benefit of exercises for the development of both the body and the mind. In this way, Philostratus wanted to encourage his contemporaries, accustomed to luxuries, to practice more sports and wanted to teach them respect for traditional Greek values. In this work, he devotes a lot of attention to the Olympic games. Therefore, the Olympic council awarded him a statue at Olympia.
At the request of the empress Julia Domna, Philostratus also wrote a biography of Apollonius of Tyana, a philosopher and miracle-worker. Later he dedicated a series of biographies of scholars, such as Herodes Atticus, and to emperor Gordian III (c. AD 237). His ‘Heroikos’ describes a meeting of the ghosts of Trojan heroes. A collection of 65 descriptions of paintings of mythical scenes can perhaps also be ascribed to him.
Passages from the Gymnastikos:
- about the use of halters:
- about Arrichion:
- about the ideal body type for runners:
- about the difference between light and heavy sports: