to reconstruct by way of archaeology and anthropolo-
gy.56 The Greeks of the Classical period and afterwards did
not themselves remember or comprehend this facet of their
Previous.” Yet a rite source for the nudity so characteristic of Greek culture clarifies a terrific deal that is
otherwise vague.”58In fact, as Brelich has noted, it is
Simpler to understand the nudity of sportsmen at the Olymlater
pic games as initially prescribed than-as
Greek custom had it-an innovation.59
A recent study by J. Mouratidis on the first
Periods of Greek athletic nudity claims that “nudity in
Greek sports had its roots in ancient Greece and
was associated with the warrior-athlete whose training and competition in the games was at exactly the same time
his training for war.”60 These conclusions appear to
me to be right. But I believe in going from this
Simple circumstance the writer underestimates, or neglects completely, the spiritual level of the phenomenon,
just as the Greeks did. We can trace typically-but
not date-some of the phases of the growth of
nudity, from its connection with the “aggression and
apotropaic purposes characteristic of the early phases
of human society,”” to its survival in the historical
period in Greek athletics.
Other scholars have found the source of sport in
funeral games, cultic practices, etc.62 Any explanation
for the rise of http://x-nudism.com/community/nudism or athletics has to account in some
Method for the associated phenomenon of “athletic nudity,” a
feature of Greek culture as characteristic and farreaching as their spirit of competition. Lately a
good case has been made for a ritual origin for Greek
Sport, in connection with early hunting rites.
The argument which has been made against a religious link appears to me to lose sight of a phase of
Greek culture which is in fact visible, though sometimes dimly, in later times. The very fact that both
sports and religion are so extraordinarily old-fashioned
allows us to trace their existence and character in earlier times.63 There’s little uncertainty that nudity was affected with the religious feeling of the games. At
the sanctuary at Olympia, as elsewhere, initiation
Rituals of youths, athletic and artistic contests were
related within precisely the same spiritual atmosphere. Rite
nakedness was a typical initiation motif. In initiation
rites in ancient Crete, the young man was nude before he took the arms of the warrior and entered into
56 Much recent work in archaeologyand anthropologyhas
focused on Greek ideas of religion, of divinity, the holy,
the irrational, rite, and magic. The weakening of “theold
link between theology and classics”and the strengtheningof
the relatively awesome link of anthropologyhad contributedto
an earlier reluctanceon the part of scholars to accept “spiritual”explanations (see Rose, under), not too differentfrom
Thucydides’ point of view, which as Ernst Badian pointed
out, in fact distortedthe image of occasions. (E. Badian, unpublished lecture, Fresh York, 1985; cf. infra ns. 57, 84-87).
The tide has turned. Peter Brown has done much to change
the situation for late antiquity;for the classicswe owe substantially
to the psychologicalinsights of url . Dodds, The Greeksand
the Irrational(Berkeley 1951). See G. Clark, review of P.E.
thought they knew was a jumble of fact and fiction. Thucydides’ introductioncontainsan interpretationof early Greek
history derivedfrom prolongedmeditationabout the world
in which Thucydideslived …. “Sansone (supra n. 54) 109:
“The effect of these various and divergent accounts is to
prove to us that the early Greeks, who were always affectionate
of assigning names to the ‘inventors’ of otherwise unexplained customs,were themselvesunaware of the reason for
I amgrateful to EverettWheeler who gave me this reference.
61 Mouratidis (supra n. 60) 321. Mouratidis (223, cf. 32)
Quotations me (EtruscanDress 102) on the nudity of Greek sportsmen as protection against the evil eye. I now consider that
such apotropaic,protectivenudity is related to, but not the
same as, ritual nudity. The nudity of the phallic herm, the
satyr, Priapus,etc., is aggressiveand protectivein a way that
athletic and rite nudity (which emphasize youth and a
small penis) aren’t. See supra, text.
62 For a survey and classificationof such explanations,see
Sansone (supra n. 54) 3-14. Add Rose, supra n. 56; Griffin,
infra n. 63.
63See Raschke, “Introduction”(supra n. 54), esp. 7-9, on
mock battle as a sort of ritual, initiatory rituals of endurance,and the presenceof “fit”nudity as a featureof
such rituals. In his review of Raschkeand Sansone(supra n.
54), Jasper Griffin points out that Sansone’stheory for the
origin of sport as ritualistic actions derived from hunting
(“sportis the ritual sacrificeof physical energy”)cannot account for the phenomenonof nudity in Greekathletics(Sansone 107-15): J. Griffin, “Playingto Triumph,” The Awesome York
Review of Books, 29 Sept. 1988, 3-5.