There is evidence of important men from military or civic life being buried in the gymnasia of their birthplace from the fourth century BC onwards. From the Late Hellenistic period there are also examples of similar burials for benefactors or their descendants who died at a young age. These public-style burials were a mark of supreme honour. They were surrounded by funerary rituals which generally included, inter alia, sacrifices and athletics contests. This phenomenon is be understood in the context of the ancient tradition of the cults of local heroes in gymnasia, some of which seem to have survived right up until the period of Imperial Rome. The tombs of these heroes were located, according to legend, on the very sites where the gymnasia were built.
The statues erected in gymnasia in honour of the dead should probably be seen in the same light. Where certain statues found in gymnasia were erected, what was found with them, but above all the extant inscriptions that accompany them indicate, in our opinion, that these statues had a posthumous function. On the basis of the evidence of these works we can deduce that for posthumous depictions there were generally three different iconographic types available: a) the naked, “heroic” type; b) the himatiophoros type and c) the herm (with a portrait bust).