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by Archaeology Newsroom

The Athletic Nude in Ancient Greece

For the collective intellectuality of ancient Greece nudity represents the characteristic feature of the image of athlete, as it has been illustrated through the perfection and harmony of the bodies which have been praised by the poets and modeled in bronze and marble by the sculptors. Nevertheless, the issue of the athletic nude presents a certain complexity.However, the ancient sources, from the Homeric epos onwards, testify to the use of a kind of protective device for the genitals, a sort of girdle, as it is pictured on Attic black-figured vases. Thucidides (1.6.5) supplies valuable information on this subject, attributing the introduction of nudity in the games to the environment of Sparta, and especially to Orsippos, a runner from Megara. The absolute nudity in the games is a habit that prevails later and coexists with the general culture of the Gymnasium, in which nudity is considered as ideal and becomes a habitus to the youths, thus contributing to the creation of the image of the καλός καγαθός (= comely and virtuous) citizen.