In antiquity, physical education served an immediate practical purpose as a form of preparation for military service. Many of the activities that now might be considered "sports" were actually ways of building useful skills. Wrestling, popular in ancient Greece, developed skills in unarmed combat, for example.
Ancient Minoan art depicts scenes including boxing and bull-leaping with relatively young participants, suggesting that these were elements of Cretan physical education, at least for some young people. The education of Achilles by Chiron in Greek mythology also suggests that young men were taught hunting skills and exercises to build strength and endurance.
Classical Greek cities and towns had gymnasia and palaestrae, which served as educational centers, combining physical education with other forms of training. Most had tracks for running and also areas for practicing other forms of exercise, such as wrestling or throwing the discus or javelin. In Sparta, young men and women received intensive physical education, with the young boys living in barracks where they were not only taught physical but also survival skills. In Athens, there was a greater balance between physical education and training in writing, math, music, dancing, and the liberal arts.