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 athletics because it was supported by heroic
tradition and faith. So using nudity for aggression and apotropaic
purposes which is characteristic of the early stages 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 sport.

condition. The Greek with his sharp eye for physical attractiveness regarded flabbiness, a pale skin, desire of state, or
imperfect development as disgraceful, and the sick-developed youth was the laughingstock of his companies.”
Kenneth Clark (The Bare, p. 19) remarked: “So our surmise that the discovery of the nude as a form of art is
connected with idealism and beliefs in measurable proportions appears to be accurate, but it is just half the truth. What
other peculiarities of the Greek mind are called for? One obvious answer is their belief that was something
to be proud of. and should be kept in perfect trim.” Yet, Clark continued, “But in fact Greek confidence in the body
can be comprehended simply in relation to their doctrine. It expresses above all their sense of human wholeness.
Nothing which related to the whole guy could be isolated or evaded; and this serious awareness 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 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-enabled the sportsmen
to show the whole control they used over their bodies. Since they were the only people to compete nude,
they could well consider they were the only people capable of such self-control: here, maybe, was a clear
superiority over the barbarians, who had to hide themselves both to avoid tempting others and to conceal their own
Deficiency of management.” For more references seeing the practice of nudity in Greek sports, see ibid., pp. 434 n. 10,

Nudity as a Costumein ClassicalArt
The Greeks viewed 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 slow transformationfrom initiation
Rituals to the “civic”nudity of the Classical period, and its
Meaning in various spiritual, magic, and societal circumstances. The characterof this institution can be viewed more
clearly by comparing it with earlier Near Eastern attitudes to nakedness, and to the after modern”barbarian”perspectives of the Hebrews, Etruscans,and Gauls,
as well as to the contemporaryviews of female nudity,
before its acceptancein the Hellenistic interval.*

as a costume.’ This is a surprising phenomenon. That
We’ve not been more surprised by it’s due to the fact
that we follow in their convention and take the Greeks
as models, forgetting how frequently their institutions and
Dispositions 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, totally
understanding the value of the custom, they
were proud of its singularity.
A study of nudity in Greece should be undertaken
from the historical point of view. I limit myself, in the
present article, to a concern of the evidence 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 innovations of the early Greeks that
changed our way of seeing the world, one of the most
Notable is a certain kind of public nudity-nudity
* An earlier versionof the
Current 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, . Harrison, R. Ross Holloway, Mark Davies, Michael Vickers, Brian Shefton,
Hans JiorgBloesch, and the anonymousAJA reviewers.
In addition to the typical AJA abbreviations,the following are used in this post:

Five basic reasons accounting for humanity’s use of
clothing will be found to be relevant at various
Periods of our discussion of nudity: 1) as protection
against the elements, especially the cold; 2) for societal
Motives, to distinguish members of a tribe or class; 3)