from a sense of shame; 4) for aesthetic reasons, as decoration, enjoyment, beauty, and to bring the reverse

sex; 5) for apotropaic reasons, to turn away the effects
shall see that one or more of these concerns can
also clarify what nudity once meant for the Greeks-and how it changed.2
Though it will not function as a protection against the
weather (1), nakedness, like clothes or armor, was
used to recognize social groups (2), in life and in art.
Clothing, in fact, recognizes human society, civilized
Individuals, from animals and wild creatures, which are
naked. People wear clothing, animals don’t. In a
clothed society, nonetheless, nakedness is unique, and can
be used as a “costume.”
came to mark a contrast between Greek and nonGreek, as well as between women and men. The latter
distinction is connected with the most fundamental connotation of nakedness, the sense of shame, vulnerability and
exposure it arouses in person (3), and the associated sense
of shock aroused by its sight. Garments was made to
Avert such powerful emotions by covering the human body, notably the male genitals, the phallus, and female genitals and breast.
People is reasonably universal.3 There originally existed in

diazoma, as the Greeks usually called it. The attractiveness of
the naked body (4) has regularly been exalted. Its sensual and
aesthetic allure, as Kenneth Clark has revealed, has
caused an alternative word to be used: this facet of nakedness is known as “nudity.”4
In the ancient Near East Ishtar,5 and in the West
naked. The beauty and strength of the naked male
body were also praised, and heroes, including the Master of Animals, were symbolized naked, or wearing
culture the ideal of male nudity as the best kind of
Attractiveness. Greek art and athletics exalted the attractiveness of
the youthful male sportsman, whose body supplied the
The image of the
Bare young male, the kouros statue of early Greek art
was kaloskagathos, “beautiful and commendable.”8
Because of the strong emotions of shame, shock,
lust, admiration, irreverence, commiseration, and disgust aroused
by the sight of the naked human body, the most frequent organizations are with taboo, magic, and ritual
(5). When the sexual organ was uncovered, its power
was unleashed. Apotropaic and magical nudity, calling for the exposure of male genitals and female
Bearing power of this elaborate image.
can shield against the evil eye.
gaze, it can paralyze or protect. The partial nudity or
exposure of a woman’s breast or genitals, for example,
Additionally function as powerful magic.9 In art and in life,

cultures throughout history, and has lived into our
own times.
as well as obscene gestures, still serve as protection
Apparel is normal, exhibitionist actions of nakedness commonly
have a magical meaning. In the realm of magic, nudity
wards off a fascination or other harmful form of magic, compels love, and gives strength to one’s own practice of
witchcraft and conjuring.”1 Since, then, in a clothed
society nudity was exceptional, , dangerous, and
powerful,”1 whole nakedness was avoided in everyday life. It was saved for special situations or particular
Rite ceremonies.
Language, also, sustained traces of this magic power
of nakedness. The word, like the fact, had to be
avoided, so that family nudists sex could be maintained. A
linguistic taboo thus caused the form of the word for
“naked” to transform, in all the Indoeuropean languages.
Though gymnos, nudus, nackt, etc. were all originally
related to each other-so linguists insure us-they
were all transformed in varied and surprising ways,
so that their initial similarity is almost unrecognizable.12 For most parts of the body, there is what
Devoto called a “compact” terminology:13 the words for
“heart,” “eye,” “foot,” “knee,” “nose,” “tooth,” “eyebrow” are fundamentally the same in all the Indoeuropean

languages. Differences can be accounted for, even explained, by linguistic “rules.” But words for “naked,”
as well as the names of certain parts of the bodyfinger, tongue, hand, and hair-are different in the
Distinct languages. How can this be explained? Indoeuropeans clearly had fingers, tongues, hands, hair,
and nakedness; and they must have had names for