an investigation a difficult endeavor. It is the intent of this paper to show
that nudity in Greek athletics had its origins in prehistoric Greece and was
Associated with the warrior-athlete whose training and competition in the games
was at the same time his prep for war. The distinction between warriorathlete and athlete is that both were naked but the former wore in certain occasions
some parts of his panoply which he discarded as time went on.
In 520 B.C. the armed race (Fig. 1) was introduced at Olympia which can
Partially be explained as a reminiscence of http://nudists-young.org/contri/they-have-been-the-only-nudists-i-have-ever-met-personally/ -athlete. The competitors
were bare except for a helmet and greaves, and carried a shield. It is potential
that this type of race was practiced in some local contests before its
Intro into the Olympic plan. Similar races were held at Nemea and
Based on Philostratos were of great antiquity.2
In Athens an attempt had been made at the close of the sixth century to
introduce loincloths into athletic competitions. This is apparent from a little
number of black determined Athenian vases (Figs, 2,3) that depict athletes wearing
loincloths. This attempt apparently failed, and nudity again became the vogue
in athletic contest. It’s possible this is what Thucydides and Plato had in mind
when they wrote the launch of nudity in the games had taken place
Only before their own time. The small number of these vases (520-500 B.C.)
* I am thankful for the useful criticism and comments of anonymous reviewers of this Journal.
1. For references see lames Arieti, “Nudity in Greek Athletics,” The Classical World 68 (1975): 431-436.
Also see Kenneth Clark, The Nude:A Study of Ideal Art (London, 1957), pp.21. 162, beach swinger tube . These studies offer an
admirable help toward understanding a phenomenon within a higher culture. When, nevertheless, one tries to locate
the origin of the difficulty, which is lost in the dark mists of prehistoric time he cannot use the same reasoning (selfcontrol, health and beauty arguments) to clarify it. If one does so he must be ready to acknowledge that all races of the
world started their existence on earth at the bottom of the scale with the exclusion of the Greeks. But the Greeks,
like all other human races, commenced their career at the bottom of the scale and worked their way upward from
savagery to civilization and admittedly retained some survivals of that old state. This paper attempts to describe the
same issue, which is nudity in Greek sports, by looking into the animal part of human nature, the early
State of the human race, its psychological nature and reasoning, its mental and moral abilities, and its protracted
struggle against anxiety.
2. Philostratos Gymn 7. For Philostratos as an inaccurate source see E. L. Bowie, “Greeks and Their Past in
the Second Sophistic,” Past and Present 46 (1970): 17. For more on the armed-race see Aristophanes Birds 291;
PlatoLaws 833a; Pausanias 2.11.8; 5.12.8; 6.10.4; Pollux 3.3; Philostratos Gymn. 8, 24.
Red-body Attic Vase. E. Norman Gardiner, “Notes on the Greek Foot Race,” JHS 23
(1903) fig. 14. (Courtesy of the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies).
prompted some scholars to raise the question of reintroduction of loincloths in
athletics.3 This was not an attempt to “reintroduce” but instead to introduce
loincloths in the games because prior to these vase renderings there’s
nothing in Greek art to signify the existence of loincloths in sports. The
alleged change from loincloths to nudity isn’t illustrated in any Greek art.
Thucydides wrote the Spartans “were the first to bare their bodies and,
after stripping openly, to anoint themselves with oil when they participated in
athletic exercise.” Dionysios of Halicarnassos believed that “The first guy who
at the close of the sixth century to introduce the loincloth and that this temporary style is the reason for
Thucydides’ statement?” See E. Norman Cardiner, Sports of the Ancient World (Oxford, 1930), p. 191
(hereafter cited as AAW). On loincloths see, e.g., J. C. Mann, “Gymnazo in Thucydides 1.6.5-6,” Ancient
Review 24 (1974): 77, who wrote: “While the representations of sportsmen on vases had generally portrayed them
Nude, it may be that an attempt to reintroduce loincloths had been made in Greece before Thucydides’ time (as
Implied by E. N. Gardiner [AAW] advertising amount 163 .)”. James Arieti, “Nudity in Greek Sport,” [431 11.31
said: “E. Norman Gardiner [AAW, p, 191] proposes, on the foundation of a vase belonging to the ending of the sixth century
in which the athletes wear a white loincloth, that an effort may have been made to reintroduce the loincloth at
this time. But Gardiner is himself very unsure on this point, raising it simply as a question, and there’s no real
Signs that the loincloth was re-introduced.” Both Mann’s and Arieti’s statements are wrong since Gardiner