By the mid-nineteenth century European gymnastics was an established system that had evolved through a century of innovation and adaptation. Originating in the Enlightenment with the
experiments of educational reformers intent on reviving a Greek ideal which the Roman poet Juvenal had summarized as mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body), gymnastics achieved widespread recognition after Friedrich Ludwig Jahn initiated the Turnverein (gymnastics club) movement.
The inventor of apparatus such as the balance beam, parallel bars, and vaulting horse, he used the discipline of organized exercise to inspire young gymnasts with a sense of national (Prussian) duty and solidarity. Jahn turned gymnastics into an agency of German patriotism.
The ambiguity of his message: enjoyment of competition and companionship versus militant nationalism, brought about Jahn’s contrasting legacies in Europe and the United States. [Read more…] about Gymnastics History: The Legacy of Friedrich Ludwig Jahn’s Turnerism