tell us, the best physic, but it served as a valuable incentive to the youth of Greece to keep themselves in gwd


Journal of Sport History, Vol. 12, No. 3 (Winter, 1985)

Nudity endured in Greek sport because it was supported by heroic
tradition and religion. So the use of nudity for aggression and apotropaic
Objectives which is characteristic of the early phases of human society and which
Represents the animal part of human nature endured with an uncommon persistency
and beyond recognition in the historical period and found refuge under the
mantle of one of the most illustrious facets of Greek civilization: the athletics.

State. The Greek with his keen eye for physical beauty regarded flabbiness, a pale skin, want of condition, or
imperfect growth as disgraceful, and the sick-developed youth was the laughing stock of his companies.”
Kenneth Clark (The Nude, p. 19) remarked: “So our surmise the discovery of the nude as a form of artwork is
Associated with idealism and religion in measurable symmetries seems to be accurate, but it is only half the truth. What
other peculiarities of the Greek thoughts are called for? One clear answer is their belief that the body was something
to take pride in. and should be kept in perfect trim.” Yet, Clark continued, “But in fact Greek confidence in the body
can be understood simply in relation to their philosophy. It expresses above all their awareness of human wholeness.
Nothing which related to the whole man could be isolated or evaded; and this serious awareness of how much was
implied in physical attractiveness saved them from both evils of sensuality and aestheticism (p. 21). James Arieti
[“Nudity in Greek Sports,” 4361 asserts “The public nakedness which does not, in the 1970’s shock us as it
shocked the Romans-though it does, perhaps, seem somewhat uncivilized for the Greeks-empowered the sportsmen
to show the complete control they used over their bodies. Since they were the only folks to compete nude,
they could well consider they were the only individuals capable of such self control: here, perhaps, was a clear
superiority over the barbarians, who had to hide to prevent tempting others and to conceal their own

lack of management.” For more references seeing the practice of nudity in Greek athletics, see ibid., pp. 434 n. 10,

Nudity as a Costumein ClassicalArt
The Greeks saw their custom of athletic male nudity
as something that set them apart from the barbarians,as
well as from their own past. A surveyof male nudity as a
costume in Greece tries to follow its origin in eighthcentury ritual, its slow transformationfrom initiation
rites to the “civic”nudity of the Classical period, and its
significance in various religious, magic, and societal contexts. The characterof this association can be seen more
Certainly by comparing it with before Near Eastern approaches to nakedness, and to the after contemporary”barbarian”attitudes of the Hebrews, Etruscans,and Gauls,
as well as to the contemporaryviews of female nudity,
before its acceptancein the Hellenistic span.*

as a costume.’ This is a surprising phenomenon. That
We’ve not been more surprised by it’s because of the fact
that we follow in their own custom and take the Greeks
as models, forgetting how often their institutions and
Perspectives made them the exception, and not the rule,
among early peoples. The Greeks of the Classical
world did not forget. While not, as we shall see, completely
understanding the value of the custom, they
were proud of its singularity.
A study of in Greece needs to be undertaken
from the historical standpoint. I restrict myself, in the
Current post, to a concern of the evidence of artwork
and literature in an effort to comprehend what lay
behind the words and figures concerning and representing nudity that have come down to us, and to explain something about the original character of an-

Among the innovations of the ancient Greeks that
changed our way of seeing the world, among the most
prominent is a particular type of public nudity-nudity
* An earlier versionof the
Current articlewas presentedat
the Institute for AdvancedStudy in Princetonin 1980. I am
grateful for the support and guidance of Homer and Dorothy
Thompson, Christian Habicht, S.D. Goitein, W.S. Heckscher, Seth Benardete, Leo Raditsa, Myles McDonnell,
Nancy de Grummond, Judith Swaddling, Ingrid Strom,
Brunilde S. Ridgway, Evelyn B. Harrison, R. Ross Holloway, Mark Davies, Michael Vickers, Brian Shefton,
Hans JiorgBloesch, and the anonymousAJA reviewers.
Along with the normal AJA abbreviations,the following are used in this article:

Five basic reasons accounting for mankind’s use of
Garments will be found to be appropriate at various
Phases of our discussion of nudity: 1) as protection
against the components, notably the cold; 2) for societal
reasons, to distinguish members of a tribe or class; 3)