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 lived in Greek sport because it was supported by heroic
tradition and faith. So the use of nudity for aggression and apotropaic
Goals which is characteristic of the early phases of human society and which
reflects the animal part of human nature lived 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 keen eye for physical attractiveness regarded flabbiness, a light skin, need of state, or
imperfect development as disgraceful, and the ill-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 in quantifiable proportions appears to be accurate, but it’s only half the truth. What
other peculiarities of the Greek mind are required? One clear answer is their belief the body 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 understood only in relation to their doctrine. It expresses above all their awareness of human wholeness.
Nothing which related to the whole man could be isolated or evaded; and this serious recognition 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 doesn’t, in the 1970’s shock us as it
shocked the Romans-though it does, maybe, look somewhat uncivilized for the Greeks-enabled the sportsmen
to show the complete control they exerted over their bodies. Since they were the only people to compete nude,
they could well consider they were the only individuals 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 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 athletic 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 attempts to track its source in eighthcentury ritual, its slow transformationfrom initiation
Rituals to the “civic”nudity of the Classical period, and its
Meaning in various religious, magic, and societal contexts. The characterof this institution can be seen more
Definitely by comparing it with earlier Near Eastern attitudes to nakedness, and to the after contemporary”barbarian”attitudes of the Hebrews, Etruscans,and Gauls,
as well concerning the contemporaryviews of female nudity,
before its acceptancein the Hellenistic span.*

as a costume.’ This is a surprising phenomenon. That
we have not been more surprised by it’s because of
that we follow in their tradition and take the Greeks
as models, forgetting how frequently their institutions and
attitudes 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 significance of the custom, they
were proud of its singularity.
A study of nudity in Greece needs to be undertaken
from the historic perspective. I limit myself, in the
Current post, to a consideration of the signs of art
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 explain something about the original 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 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 advice 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, , Michael Vickers, Brian Shefton,
Hans JiorgBloesch, and the anonymousAJA reviewers.
Along with the conventional AJA abbreviations,the following are used in this article:

Five fundamental reasons accounting for humanity’s use of
clothing will be located to be relevant at various
stages of our discussion of nudity: 1) as protection
against the components, particularly the cold; 2) for social
reasons, to differentiate members of a tribe or class; 3)