to reconstruct by way of archaeology and anthropolo-
gy.56 The Greeks of the Classical period and afterwards did
not themselves remember or understand this facet of their
past.” Yet a rite source 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 originally prescribed than as
Greek tradition had it-an initiation.59
A recent study by J. Mouratidis on the first
stages of Greek athletic nudity maintains that “nudity in
Greek sport had its origins in prehistoric Greece and
was associated 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 right. But I believe in moving from this
Crude circumstance the author underestimates, or neglects entirely, the religious amount of the happening,
just as the Greeks did. We can follow typically-but
not date-some of the periods of the growth of
nudity, from its connection with the “aggression and
apotropaic goals characteristic of the early stages
of human society,”” to its survival in the historic
period in Greek athletics.
Other scholars have seen the source of sport in
funeral games, cultic practices, etc.62 Any explanation
for the rise of sport or athletics has to account in some
Method for the related phenomenon of “fit nudity,” a
Attribute of Greek culture as characteristic and farreaching as their spirit of competition. Lately a
good case was made for a rite origin for Greek
Sports, in connection with early hunting rituals.
The argument which has been made against a spiritual connection appears to me to lose sight of a phase of
Greek culture which is actually observable, though sometimes dimly, in later times. The very fact that both
sports and faith are so extraordinarily traditional
allows us to trace their existence and character in earlier times.63 There’s little doubt 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 competitions were
related within the same religious setting. Ritual
nakedness was a typical initiation motif. In initiation
rites in ancient Crete, the young man was nude before he got the arms of the warrior and entered into
56 Much recent work in archaeologyand anthropologyhas
focused on Greek notions of religion, of divinity, the holy,
the irrational, rite, and magic. The weakening of “theold
link between theology and classics”and the strengtheningof
the comparatively new link of anthropologyhad contributedto
an earlier reluctanceon the part of scholars to accept “spiritual”explanations (see Rose, beneath), not overly differentfrom
Thucydides’ point of view, which as Ernst Badian pointed
Outside, in fact distortedthe image of occasions. (E. Badian, unpublished lecture, Awesome 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 much
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 accounts is to
prove to us that the early Greeks, who were always fond
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 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
Fit and ritual nudity (which highlight youth and a
Little dick) 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 battle as a form of rite, initiatory rituals of endurance,and the presenceof “athletic”nudity as a featureof
such rituals. In http://nudistsplace.com/first-time-nudist-stories/attention-all-nudists/ 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 rite sacrificeof physical energy”)cannot account for the phenomenonof nudity in Greekathletics(Sansone 107-15): J. hot teen beach , “Playingto Win,” The Awesome York
Review of Publications, 29 Sept. 1988, 3-5.