an investigation an arduous undertaking. It’s the goal of this paper to demonstrate
that nudity in Greek athletic contest had its roots in ancient Greece and was
connected with the warrior-athlete whose training and competition in the games
was at exactly the same time his prep for war. The difference between warriorathlete and sportsman is that both were bare but the former wore in specific events
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 bare except for a helmet and greaves, and taken a shield. It is potential
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 effort had been made at the close of the sixth century to
introduce loincloths into athletic competitions. This is evident from a modest
number of black figured Athenian vases (Figs, 2,3) that depict sportsmen wearing
loincloths. This attempt apparently failed, and nudity again became the trend
in athletic contest. It is possible that this is what Thucydides and Plato had in mind
when they wrote the launch of nudity in the games had taken place
just before their own time. The few of these vases (520-500 B.C.)
* I am thankful for the useful criticism and opinions 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
Commendable help toward understanding a phenomenon within a higher civilization. When, nevertheless, one attempts to find
the source of the problem, which is lost in the dark mists of prehistoric time he cannot use the same reasoning (selfcontrol, health and beauty arguments) to describe it. If one does so he must be prepared to declare that all races of the
world began 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 profession at the underparts of the the scale and worked from
savagery to civilization and admittedly retained some survivals of that old condition. This paper attempts to describe the
same issue, which is nudity in Greek sports, by looking into the animal part of human nature, the early
condition of the human race, its psychological nature and reasoning, its mental and moral powers, and its protracted
struggle against fear.
2. Philostratos Gymn 7. For Philostratos as an incorrect 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 Fowl 291;
PlatoLaws 833a; Pausanias 2.11.8; 5.12.8; 6.10.4; Pollux 3.3; Philostratos Gymn. 8, 24.

Red-body Attic Vase. 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 attempt to “reintroduce” but instead to introduce
loincloths in the games because prior to these vase renderings there’s
nothing in Greek art to signify the existence of loincloths in sports. The
alleged change from loincloths to nudity is not exemplified in any Greek artwork.
Thucydides wrote the Spartans “were the first to bare their bodies and,
after stripping openly, to anoint themselves with oil when they participated in
athletic exercise.” Dionysios of Halicarnassos believed that “The first man who
at the close of the sixth century to introduce the loincloth and that this temporary way is the reason for
Thucydides’ statement?” See E. Norman Cardiner, Sports 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 athletes on vases had usually portrayed them
Nude, it may be that an effort to reintroduce loincloths were made in Greece before Thucydides’ time (as
suggested by E. N. Gardiner [AAW] ad fig. 163 .)”. James Arieti, “Nudity in Greek Athletics,” [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 attempt may have been made to reintroduce the loincloth at
this time. But Gardiner is himself very unsure on this point, lifting it simply as a question, and there’s no actual
evidence the loincloth was re introduced.” Both Mann’s and Arieti’s statements are wrong since Gardiner