an investigation a hard undertaking. It’s the intention of this paper to show
that nudity in Greek athletic contest had its origins in ancient Greece and was
connected with the warrior-athlete whose training and competition in the games
was at precisely the same time his preparation for war. The difference between warriorathlete and athlete is that both were naked but the former wore in specific occasions
some parts of his panoply which he lost 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 the warrior-athlete. The challengers
were nude except for a helmet and greaves, and carried a shield. It’s possible
that this type of race was practiced in some local competitions before its
introduction into the Olympic program. Similar races were held at Nemea and
according to Philostratos were of great antiquity.2
In Athens an attempt was made at the close of the sixth century to
introduce loincloths into athletic competitions. This is clear from a modest
number of black determined Athenian vases (Figs, 2,3) that depict athletes wearing
loincloths. This effort seemingly failed, and nudity again became the vogue
in athletics. It is possible that this is what Thucydides and Plato had in mind
when they wrote the introduction of nudity in the games had taken place
Only before their own time. The small number of these vases (520-500 B.C.)
* I ‘m thankful for the useful criticism and opinions of anonymous re view ers 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, 163. These studies offer an
admirable help toward understanding a phenomenon within a higher culture. When, nevertheless, one tries to locate
the origin of the issue, 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 prepared to admit that all races of the
world started their existence on earth at the underparts of the the scale with the exception of the Greeks. But the Greeks,
like all other human races, commenced their career at the underparts of the the scale and worked their way up from
savagery to civilization and true retained some survivals of that old state. This paper tries to describe the
same problem, which is nudity in Greek athletics, by looking into the animal part of human nature, the early
State of the human race, its emotional nature and reasoning, its mental and moral powers, and its protracted
struggle against fear.
2. Philostratos Gymn 7. For Philostratos as an inaccurate source see E. L. Bowie, “Greeks and Their Past in
the Second Sophistic,” Past and Current 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- http://modestperson.com/views/discovered-nudist-notices.php . E. Norman Gardiner, “Notes on the Greek Foot Race,” JHS 23
(1903) amount 14. (Courtesy of the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies).
prompted some scholars to raise the question of reintroduction of loincloths in
Sports.3 This wasn’t an effort to “reintroduce” but rather to introduce
loincloths in the games because prior to these vase portrayals there is
nothing in Greek art to indicate the existence of loincloths in athletics. The
alleged change from loincloths to nudity isn’t exemplified in any Greek art.
Thucydides wrote that the Spartans “were the first to bare their bodies and,
after stripping openly, to anoint themselves with oil when they engaged in
Fit exercise.” Dionysios of Halicarnassos considered that “The first guy who
at the close of the sixth century to introduce the loincloth and that this temporary manner is the reason for
Thucydides’ statement?” See E. Norman Cardiner, Athletics 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 athletes on vases had usually portrayed them
naked, it may be that an effort to reintroduce loincloths had been made in Greece before Thucydides’ time (as
suggested by E. N. Gardiner [AAW] advertisement amount 163 .)”. James Arieti, “Nudity in Greek Sport,” [431 11.31
said: “E. Norman Gardiner [AAW, p, 191] proposes, on the basis 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 quite uncertain on this point, lifting it only as a question, and there’s no real
evidence that the loincloth was reintroduced.” Both Mann’s and Arieti’s statements are incorrect since Gardiner