to reconstruct by way of archaeology and anthropolo-
gy.56 The Greeks of the Classical period and later did
not themselves recall or comprehend this aspect of their
past.” Yet a rite origin for the nudity so characteristic of Greek culture explains a great deal that is
otherwise vague.”58In fact, as Brelich has noted, it’s
easier to comprehend the nudity of sportsmen at the Olymlater
pic games as initially prescribed than-as
Greek convention had it-an innovation.59
A recent study by J. Mouratidis on the earliest
stages of Greek athletic nudity declares that “nudity in
Greek sports had its origins 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.”60 These decisions seem to
me to be correct. But I believe in going from this
Crude circumstance the author underestimates, or discounts completely, the religious amount of the phenomenon,
just as the Greeks did. We can follow usually-but
not date-some of the phases of the development 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
Interval 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 associated phenomenon of “fit nudity,” a
feature of Greek culture as characteristic and farreaching as their spirit of competition. Recently a
Great case has been made for a ritual origin for Greek
Sports, 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 in fact visible, though occasionally dimly, in later times. The very fact that both
sports and religion are so extraordinarily conservative
allows us to trace their existence and character in earlier times.63 There’s little uncertainty that nudity was affected with the religious atmosphere of the games. At
the sanctuary at Olympia, as elsewhere, initiation
rites of youths, fit and artistic competitions were
related within the exact same religious atmosphere. Rite
nakedness was a typical initiation motif. In initiation
Rituals in ancient Crete, the young man was naked before he took the arms of the warrior and entered into
56 Much recent work in archaeologyand anthropologyhas
focused on Greek notions of religion, of divinity, the sacred,
the irrational, ritual, and magic. The weakening of “theold
link between theology and classics”and the strengtheningof
the comparatively fresh link of anthropologyhad contributedto
an earlier reluctanceon the part of scholars to accept “religious”explanations (see Rose, below), not overly differentfrom
Thucydides’ point of http://nudist-video.net , which as Ernst Badian pointed
out, in fact distortedthe graphic 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 transform
the situation for late antiquity;for the classicswe owe considerably
to the psychologicalinsights of E.R. 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 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)
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 ritual nudity (which highlight youth and a
small member) 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 form of rite, initiatory rites 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
origin of sport as ritualistic activities derived from hunting
(“sportis the rite sacrificeof physical energy”)cannot account for the phenomenonof nudity in Greekathletics(Sansone 107-15): J. http://tinynudism.com , “Playingto Win,” The New York
Review of Books, 29 Sept. 1988, 3-5.