them. (They did not, as in the event of “lion,” for example, have to embrace the name for the thing from another

language.) There must have been some other reason at
work to account for the lack of a consistent routine
in these words. Such a motive can be found in the
powerful connotations of specific parts of the body,
and of nakedness. These were such that the word was
Averted, and a euphemism, or a distortion replaced.
The Greek word albotia, “shameful matters,” for sexual
organs, like the Latin word pudenda, reveals that male
nudity wasn’t always taken.14
The group of nudity as magic is closely related to
several types of nudity we shall be discussing. Religious nudity covers a vast place of significance. Divine
nudity qualifies gods and goddesses. The divine
nudity of the goddesses Astarte, Ishtar (consistently
shown in frontal nudity), Aphrodite, Venus, and
others signifies fertility, fecundity, and .” Rite nudity refers to nudity as a unique style of dressing for initiation rituals for boys and girls, for sacred

prostitutes functioning at the temple, for a priest sacrificing before his god.16 Clearly dress and undress, nakedness and nudity, are related in meaning and circumstance.
nudist pageant movies includes a famous report of
the origin of clothes that shows some of the basic
Historical connotations of nakedness and clothing. Based on Genesis (6.7), Adam and Eve devised a
garment to hide the sex organs of men and girls-the Greek Septuagint called it a perizoma. They did
this to keep from being ashamed of-and/or shocked
by-their nakedness after they’d eaten of the Tree
were nude; so they sewed together fig leaves and
made themselves loincloths.” (In the Vulgate: Et aperti sunt oculi amborum: cumque cognovissent se esse
nudos, consuerunt folia ficus, et fecerunt sibi perizomata … .)17 Whatever the meaning (or meanings) of
nakedness in this passage, the purpose of the perizoma
was definitely to prevent seeming naked before each
It was not
for protection; for only later (Gen. 3.21) did God
Just as clothes could serve distinct functions, so
nakedness and nudity could have distinct meanings.
This seems to be shown by the story of Ishtar, the goddess who in artwork generally appeared in frontal nudity,
In the story
of Ishtar’s descent into the Underworld, she is progressively stripped of her jewels and decorations as she
enters each of the seven gates.

fertility seems completely naked, deprived of her divinity and dignity.'” Even she can be stripped and
shamed. (The Akkadian phrase for the loincloth is
“robe of shame,” sometimes euphemistically left
as “robe of splendor.”)19 There was clearly all the
difference on the planet, to early eyes, between a gloriously, divinely nude figure wearing jewelry, a
anything. Being “stark naked” meant poverty, as well
as shame.
In the Old Testament nakedness always signifies
In the ancient
Near East and elsewhere it is a sign of defeat-nude,
bound prisoners were paraded in the king’s victory
Party, and are hence represented on innumerable
monuments.20 The slain enemy, regularly stripped of
Clothing or armor, lies naked. As in a dream of stress,
nakedness exposes you to panic and shame. But the
Greeks were to turn the notion about and to see the
cover or adornment.


dented departure from a standard accepted in every other
time and tribe. “Formerly, even in the Olympic
games, sportsmen competed with a diazoma, or perizoma. Quite a few other customs reveal that the Greeks
once lived like the barbarians of today.” Many other
passages could be cited to demonstrate that the Greeks considered the custom of nudity indicated a split with
their own earlier convention.
What led to this change?
most part referred to the Classical period, and stressed one or another facet of this custom: the arty
standing youth, or the real-life nudity of the sportsman.
I want to try and track the origin and progression of this kind of important happening.
questions involved, several must for the moment remain unanswered; this is a work in progress. The tentative nature of some of my ideas will, I trust,
Provoke others to treat this important issue. In attempting to sort out the various chronological levels of
Greek nudity and their significance, I’ve tried
to do what I did for the Roman victory,21 finding,
along the way, how differently Greek and Roman