an investigation a difficult endeavor. It’s the intention of this paper to demonstrate
that nudity in Greek athletic contest had its roots in ancient Greece and was
Associated with the warrior-athlete whose training and competition in the games
was at the exact same time his prep for war. The distinction between warriorathlete and sportsman is that both were bare but the former wore in specific 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
partly be explained as a reminiscence of the warrior-athlete. The opponents
were naked except for a helmet and greaves, and carried a shield. It is possible
that this type of race was practiced in some local contests before its
Intro into the Olympic program. Similar races were held at Nemea and
according to 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 evident from a small
Amount of black found Athenian vases (Figs, 2,3) that depict athletes wearing
loincloths. This effort apparently failed, and nudity again became the trend
in athletics. It is possible this is what Thucydides and Plato had in mind
when they wrote the introduction of nudity in the games had taken place
just before their own time. The small number of these vases (520-500 B.C.)
* I ‘m glad 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, 163. These studies offer an
admirable help toward understanding a phenomenon within a higher culture. When, nevertheless, one strives to locate
the source 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 explain it. If one does so he must be prepared to admit that all races of the
world began 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 profession at the underparts of the the scale and worked their way up from
savagery to civilization and admittedly retained some survivals of that old condition. This paper tries to clarify the
same problem, which is nudity in Greek athletics, by looking into the animal part of human nature, the early
condition of the human race, its emotional nature and reasoning, its mental and moral abilities, and its protracted
Battle against fear.
2. Philostratos Gymn 7. For Philostratos as an erroneous 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-figure 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
Sports.3 This wasn’t an effort to “reintroduce” but rather to introduce
loincloths in the games because prior to these vase representations there is
nothing in Greek art to signal the existence of loincloths in sports. The
alleged change from loincloths to nudity isn’t exemplified in any Greek artwork.
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 believed that ” http://rudenudist.com/tube/20-minutes-they-each-got-topless/ who
at the close of the sixth century to introduce the loincloth and that this temporary fashion is the reason for
Thucydides’ statement?” See E. Norman Cardiner, Sport of the Ancient World (Oxford, 1930), p. 191
(hereafter mentioned 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 usually 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] ad 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 attempt may have been made to reintroduce the loincloth at
this time. But Gardiner is himself quite uncertain on this point, raising it merely as a question, and there is no real
Signs that the loincloth was re-introduced.” Both Mann’s and Arieti’s statements are inaccurate since Gardiner