The school of Aristotle, the Lykeion (Lyceum) (335 B.C.), one of the three oldest gymnasia in the city together with those of the Academy and Kynosarges, was situated on the outskirts of ancient Athens, outside the walls and the Gate of Diochares. As attested by ancient authors (Plutarch, Strabo, Pausanias), the Lykeion was a very extensive, verdant area between two rivers, the Eridanos to the north and the Illisos to the south, and beside the sanctuary of Lykeion (Lycian) Apollo and Herakles Pankrates. Athenian hoplites and ephebes, fulfilling their military duties, exercised in this idyllic area with its abundant waters.
During excavation works on a lot behind the Armed Forces Officers Club (Sarogleio) to build the Museum of Modern Art, the foundations of a large structure (50 m. long, 48 m. wide) were uncovered. The structure had suffered considerable damage from the installations of a modern military camp between the 19th century and the early 1960s.
The building has been identified as the palaestra of the ancient gymnasium situated in this area, and it has the characteristics of comparable structures at Delphi, Delos, Olympia, and the Academy (Athens), i.e. a symmetrical layout of its rooms around a rectangular courtyard (23 m. wide) surrounded by stoas on three of its four sides (3.5 m. wide on the east and west, 4.0 m. wide on the north). Two hypocausts, cisterns connected with a shaft and a well underscore the use of some of its rooms.
Its long period of use, with repeated repairs to the original plan, helped to identify the building. It appears to have been officially founded by Lycurgus towards the last quarter of the 4th century B.C., though earlier use of the area dates back to the Late Archaic period. After the destruction of Athens by Sulla in 86 B.C., the building?s superstructure was rebuilt and two hypocausts were added. Later, during the 1st century A.D., another cistern was installed in the area. Repairs to reopen the palaestra were also carried out after the Herulian destruction in 267 A.D. and near the end of the 3rd century A.D. Finally, at the end of the 4th century A.D. the building was destroyed and did not reopen.
(Odysseus, Greek Ministry of Culture)