tell us, the very best physic, but it functioned 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 lived in Greek athletics because it was supported by heroic
tradition and religion. So the use of nudity for aggression and apotropaic
Goals which is characteristic of the early periods of human society and which
Reveals the animal part of human nature lived 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.

condition. The Greek with his sharp eye for physical beauty regarded flabbiness, a pale skin, desire of state, or
imperfect growth as disgraceful, and the sick-developed youth was the laughing stock of his comrades.”
Kenneth Clark (The Nude, p. 19) remarked: “So our surmise that the discovery of the nude as a kind of art is
Associated with idealism and beliefs in quantifiable proportions seems to be true, but it’s only half the truth. What
other peculiarities of the Greek mind are called for? One obvious solution is their belief that the body was something
to be proud of. and should be kept in perfect trim.” Yet, Clark continued, “But in fact Greek trust in the body
can be comprehended 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 comprehension of how much was
implied in physical attractiveness saved them from both evils of sensuality and aestheticism (p. 21). James Arieti
[“Nudity in Greek Athletics,” 4361 asserts “The public nakedness which doesn’t, in the 1970’s shock us as it
shocked the Romans-though it does, perhaps, look somewhat uncivilized for the Greeks-enabled the sportsmen
to reveal the complete control they exerted over their bodies. Since they were the only folks to compete naked,

they could well believe they were the only people capable of such self-control: here, perhaps, was a clear
superiority over the barbarians, who had to hide themselves both to avert tempting others and to conceal their own
lack of management.” For more references regarding the practice of nudity in Greek sports, see ibid., pp. 434 n. 10,

Nudity as a Costumein ClassicalArt
The Greeks saw their custom of fit 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 attempts to trace its origin in eighthcentury ritual, its gradual transformationfrom initiation
rites to the “civic”nudity of the Classical period, and its
Meaning in various spiritual, magic, and societal contexts. The characterof this institution can be viewed more
clearly by comparing it with earlier Near Eastern attitudes to nakedness, and to the later modern”barbarian”perspectives of the Hebrews, Etruscans,and Gauls,
as well concerning the contemporaryviews of female nudity,
before its acceptancein the Hellenistic period.*

as a costume.’ This is a surprising phenomenon. That
we have not been more surprised by it is because of the fact
that we follow in their tradition and take the Greeks
as models, forgetting how often their institutions and
Approaches made them the exception, and not the rule,
among ancient peoples. The Greeks of the Classical
world didn’t forget. While not, as we shall see, fully
understanding the value of , they
were proud of its singularity.
A study of nudity in Greece needs to be undertaken
from the historic standpoint. I restrict myself, in the
Current article, to a concern of the evidence of artwork
and literature in an attempt to understand what lay
behind the words and figures concerning and representing nudity that have come down to us, and to clarify something about the first character of an-

One of the innovations of the ancient Greeks that
changed our way of seeing the world, among the most
prominent is a particular sort of public nudity-nudity
* An earlier versionof the
present articlewas presentedat
the Institute for AdvancedStudy in Princetonin 1980. I ‘m
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.
In addition to the conventional AJA abbreviations,the following are used in this article:

Five fundamental motives accounting for humanity’s use of
clothing will be located to be appropriate at various
stages of our discussion of nudity: 1) as protection
against the components, notably the cold; 2) for social
reasons, to recognize nudist photos family of a tribe or class; 3)