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


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

Nudity survived in Greek athletics because it was supported by heroic
tradition and religion. So the use of nudity for aggression and apotropaic
Goals that is characteristic of the early periods of human society and which
Represents the animal part of human nature survived with an unusual persistency
and beyond recognition in the historical period and found refuge under the
mantle of one of the most illustrious aspects of Greek culture: the sport.

State. The Greek with his sharp eye for physical attractiveness seen flabbiness, a light skin, desire of state, or
imperfect development as disgraceful, and the sick-developed youth was the laughingstock of his companions.”
Kenneth Clark (The Naked, p. 19) commented: “So our surmise the discovery of the nude as a kind of artwork is
Associated with idealism and beliefs in measurable symmetries appears to be accurate, but it’s just half the truth. What
other peculiarities of the Greek mind are required? One clear solution is their belief that the body was something
to be proud of. and should be kept in perfect cut.” Yet, Clark continued, “But in fact Greek trust in the body
can be comprehended only in relation to their philosophy. It expresses above all their sense of human wholeness.
Nothing which related to the whole guy could be isolated or evaded; and this serious comprehension of how much was
implied in physical beauty saved them from the two evils of sensuality and aestheticism (p. 21). James Arieti
[“Nudity in Greek Sports,” 4361 argues “The public nakedness which does not, in the 1970’s shock us as it
shocked the Romans-though it does, maybe, seem somewhat uncivilized for the Greeks-empowered the athletes
to show the complete control they used over their bodies. Since they were the only folks to compete nude,
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 prevent tempting others and to conceal their own
lack of control.” 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 man 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 track its origin in eighthcentury rite, its gradual transformationfrom initiation
Rituals to the “civic”nudity of the Classical period, and its
Meaning in various religious, magic, and social circumstances. The characterof this association can be seen more
Certainly by comparing it with earlier Near Eastern attitudes to nakedness, and to the later contemporary”barbarian”approaches of the Hebrews, Etruscans,and Gauls,
as well as to 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’s due to the fact
that we follow in their own tradition and take the Greeks
as models, forgetting how frequently their associations and
Approaches 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 importance of the custom, they
were proud of its singularity. of nudity in Greece needs to be undertaken
from the historic standpoint. I limit myself, in the
present article, to a concern of the signs of artwork
and literature in an effort 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 initiations of the ancient Greeks that
changed of seeing the world, one of the most
Visible is a particular type of public nudity-nudity
* An earlier versionof the
present 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 standard AJA abbreviations,the following are used in this post:

Five basic reasons accounting for mankind’s use of
Garments will be found to be applicable at various
Phases of our discussion of nudity: 1) as protection
against the components, particularly the chilly; 2) for social
Motives, to differentiate members of a tribe or class; 3)