Usually, Roman tradition sees continuity, Greek historians pressure initiation. The result is schematic, but expect, helpful.
The Greek word for naked, or nude, is gymnos, and
shows something fresh in the historical world. The word
refers to total nudity. In Classical times, a man was
not gymnos if he wore a perizoma. In a military context gymnos meant “unarmed” (II. 16.815, etc.), not
covered by armour, exposed (Thuc. 3.23, 5.10.71; Xen.
Hell. 4.4.12); and “light-armed,” as opposed to the
Heavy armed hoplite. The gymnon stadion (Pind.
Pyth. 11.49) was the race run without armor, in contrast to the hoplitodromos. By far the most common
usage, however, was expressly “exercising in the
nude.”22 The word had become something new, just as
the Greeks had made something new of the ancient so-


In Homer’s poems, of around 800 B.C., nakedness
Entails shame, exposure, death, and dishonor.
The naked body of the hero must be saved. Thersites is threatened with being stripped and run naked
through the assembly. Odysseus covers himself with
leaves before Nausicaa.23 The latter instance, of
course, may be because of the specific conditions. The
hero is meeting a young, single woman for the
first time, and it would barely be appropriate for him
to appear before her entirely naked. Homer presents us, it appears, as so often, with the old and the
new, the conventional and the first instance of what
is to come.
A crucial passage appears to exemplify this type of coexistence. In the 22nd book of the Iliad, Priam and Hecuba
in turn effort-in vain-to dissuade Hector from
going to conflict and to certain death. Both appeal to his
Empathy, and respect, by facing him with the spectacle of their nakedness. The sight of one’s parents’ nakedness is wonderful.24 Priam paints a picture of his
own departure and abasement. An old man’s passing is

ugly: “When an old man is dead and down, and the
dogs mutilate the grey head and the gray beard and the
parts that are black (albi^), this, for all sad mortality is the sight most pitiful” (II. 22.74-76). Immediately
after this, Hecuba exhibits her breast and holds it out
for Hector, in entreaty (79-81). This pitiable importance refers to the conventional sense of nakedness.
What exactly is new is what Priam contrasts with the
grisly, black, horrible death of an old man: the beauty
of the nakedness of a young man. “For a young man
all is decorous when he’s cut down in battle and torn

with the sharp bronze, and lies there, and though dead
all that reveals about him is beautiful… ” (II.
22.71-73). The image is startling at this kind of early
date. It was understandably famous. Echoes of the
passage sounded down the centuries, among them
Tyrtaios’s well-known poem, with its comparison of nasty
and lovely.
For this is black, for an elderly guy fallen in conflict
One of the front line combatants to lie before the young
men, an elderly man with his hair white and beard silvery, breathing his virulent life into the dust, his
bloody genitals in his hands and with his skin all bare.
This sight is shameful for the eyes to beholdand reprehensible. But in comparison among young men all these
things are appropriate as long as he shines in the blooming of
Wonderful youth manhood. They are admirablefor men to
see and fantastically attractivefor women while he’s
Living-and he appears additionally honorable and amazing
Dropped in the front line.25
There isn’t any hint of any difference between Greeks
and barbarians in Homer in terms of language, religion (the Trojans’ sacrifice at the temple of Athena),
dress, or nudity. In the athletic competitions, the
heroes “gird their loins” to prepare for the wrestling
match. Early writers presumed this meant that they
wore the perizoma. Lately others have suggested
that they were participated in belt-wrestling, known from
the ancient Near East, where nude man bodies wearing thick belts were common in early or protohistoric

cover their genitals. beach cocks for men could signify service to the god, a rite “costume.”
The naked woman, consistently shown in front view, was
a very common theme that could have different significance at different times. In Near Eastern artwork goddesses
were so represented, primary among them Ishtar
(Astarte), whose powerful, naked picture was broadly
Spread, and influential in many areas and periods.28 The most frequent connotation of female nudity
in historical times appears to have been service rendered
in the temple.29 For guys, yet, in the ancient
Near East and elsewhere it was a signal of defeat. As in
the Old Testament, nakedness signifies poverty,
Disgrace, captivity, humiliation.30
Greek prehistory offers fewer examples of entire
nudity. Lively younger guys and heroes were symbolized in art wearing the perizoma or short pants31
throughout the Aegean and the whole Mediterranean,
in contrast to older guys, dressed in long chitons and