to reconstruct by way of archaeology and anthropolo-
gy.56 The Greeks of the Classical period and after did
not themselves remember or understand this feature of their
Previous.” Yet a rite origin for the nudity so characteristic of Greek culture clarifies a fantastic deal that is
otherwise vague.”58In fact, as Brelich has noted, it is
easier to understand the nudity of athletes at the Olymlater
pic games as originally prescribed than as
Greek convention had it-an innovation.59
A recent study by J. Mouratidis on the first
stages of Greek fit nudity claims that “nudity in
Greek sport had its roots in prehistoric Greece and
was connected with the warrior-athlete whose training and competition in the games was at the exact same time
his prep for war.”60 These conclusions appear to
me to be correct. But I believe in moving from this
Crude circumstance the author underestimates, or discounts completely, the spiritual amount of the occurrence,
just as the Greeks did. We can trace usually-but
not date-some of the periods of the development of
nudity, from its connection with the “aggression and
apotropaic motives characteristic of the early periods
of human society,”” to its survival in the historical
Span in Greek sport.
Other scholars have found the origin of sport in
funeral games, cultic practices, etc.62 Any explanation
for the rise of sport or sports has to account in some
Method for the related 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 rite source for Greek
athletics, in connection with early hunting rituals.
The argument which has been made against a religious link seems to me to lose sight of a period of
Greek culture which is actually observable, though occasionally dimly, in later times. The very fact that both
sports and faith are so terribly conservative
allows us to trace their existence and character in earlier times.63 There’s little uncertainty that nudity was affected with the spiritual feeling of the games. At
the refuge at Olympia, as elsewhere, initiation
rites of youths, fit and artistic competitions were
related within the exact same religious atmosphere. http://rudenudist.com/tube/a-nudist-club-in-north-georgia/ 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 sacred,
the irrational, ritual, and magic. The weakening of “theold
link between theology and classics”and the strengtheningof
the relatively fresh link of anthropologyhad contributedto
an earlier reluctanceon the part of scholars to accept “religious”explanations (see Rose, under), not too differentfrom
Thucydides’ point of view, which as Ernst Badian pointed
Outside, in fact distortedthe image of occasions. (E. Badian, unpublished lecture, New 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 E.R. Dodds, The Greeksand
the Irrational(Berkeley 1951). See G. Clark, review of P.E.
thought they understood 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 reports is to
prove to us that the ancient 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)
quotes me (EtruscanDress 102) on the nudity of Greek athletes as protection against the evil eye. I now believe that
such apotropaic, http://nudismphotos.net/?p=164 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
Fit and ritual nudity (which highlight youth and a
Little penis) are not. 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 combats as a kind of rite, initiatory rituals of endurance,and the presenceof “athletic”nudity as a featureof
such rites. In his review of Raschkeand Sansone(supra n.
54), Jasper Griffin points out that Sansone’stheory for the
Source of sport as ritualistic activities derived from hunting
(“sportis the ritual sacrificeof physical energy”)cannot account for the phenomenonof nudity in Greekathletics(Sansone 107-15): J. Griffin, “Playingto Win,” The Awesome York
Review of Publications, 29 Sept. 1988, 3-5.