them. (They didn’t, as in the event of “lion,” for example, have to adopt the name for the thing from another

language.) There must have been some other motive at
work to account for the lack of a consistent routine
in these words. Such a rationale are available in the
powerful connotations of particular parts of the body,
and of nakedness. These were such that the word was
avoided, 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 consistently accepted.14
The group of nudity as magic is closely related to
Several kinds of nudity we shall be discussing. Spiritual nudity covers a vast area of significance. Divine
nudity characterizes gods and goddesses. The divine
nudity of the goddesses Astarte, Ishtar (consistently
Revealed in frontal nudity), Aphrodite, Venus, and
others signifies fertility, fecundity, and power.” Rite nudity refers to nudity as a special manner of dressing for initiation rituals for boys and girls, for holy

grafia della madre nell’arte dell’Italia antica,”

prostitutes serving at the temple, for a priest sacrificing before his god.16 Clearly dress and undress, nakedness and nudity, are related in meaning and condition. comprises a famed accounts of
the origin of clothing that shows some of the fundamental
ancient connotations of nakedness and clothes. According to Genesis (6.7), Adam and Eve devised a
garment to conceal the sex organs of men and women-the Greek Septuagint called it a perizoma. They did

this to keep from being embarrassed of-and/or shocked
by-their nakedness after they’d eaten of the Tree
of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden: “Then the eyes
of both were opened, and they discovered that they
were naked; 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 clearly to prevent seeming nude before each
other, as male and female, and before God. It was not
for protection; for just later (Gen. 3.21) did God
give them fur coats to protect them from the cold.
Just as clothing could serve different purposes, so
nakedness and nudity could have distinct significance.
This appears to be shown by the story of Ishtar, the goddess who in artwork normally appeared in frontal nudity,
in the full pride of her beauty and power. In the story
of Ishtar’s descent into the Underworld, she’s increasingly stripped of her jewels and decorations as she
enters each of the seven gates. At the last, the gatekeeper removes her “breechcloth,” and the goddess of

fertility appears fully naked, deprived of her divinity and dignity.'” Even she can be stripped and
shamed. (The Akkadian phrase for the loincloth is
“robe of disgrace,” sometimes euphemistically rendered
as “robe of grandeur.”)19 There was evidently all the
difference on the planet, to early eyes, between a gloriously, divinely nude figure wearing jewelry, a
crown, a loincloth, even a belt, and one not wearing
anything. Being “stark naked” meant poverty, as well
as shame.
In the Old Testament nakedness consistently signifies
poverty, shame, slavery, humiliation. 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 thereby represented on innumerable
monuments.20 The slain enemy, regularly stripped of
Clothing or armor, lies naked. As in a dream of tension,
nakedness exposes you to anxiety and shame. But the
Greeks were to turn the theory about and to see the
Attractiveness and pride of the male human body, without
cover or adornment.


dented deviation from a norm accepted in every other
time and tribe. “Once, even in the Olympic
games, athletes competed with a diazoma, or perizoma. Several other customs reveal the Greeks
once lived like the barbarians of today.” Many other
passages could be cited to show the Greeks believed the custom of nudity marked a split with
their own earlier convention.
What led to this change? Explanations have for the
most part referred to the Classical period, and emphasized one or click of this custom: the artistic
nudity of the kouros, the monumental statue of a
standing youth, or the real life nudity of the athlete.
I want to attempt to track the origin and development of such an important phenomenon. Of the many
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,
stimulate others to address this significant issue. In trying to sort out the different chronological levels of
Greek nudity and their value, I ‘ve attempted
to do what I did for the Roman victory,21 finding,
along the way, how differently Greek and Roman