It would be quite odd to attend a basketball game and watch nude players dunk the ball into the basket, or to watch gymnastics on TV with teens and preteens performing their routine completely naked. Indeed, it would be quite difficult to envision that in the society we live in today. It was different for some time in ancient Greece. Around the early 7th century in Sparta and Thebes, the same time that we see evidence of pederasty, we also find evidence of athletic nudity. It was quite popular in Sparta for boys and girls to perform athletics in the nude.
            Historians attempted to find out why nudity was suddenly incorporated into sports. One theory for athletic nudity was related to initiation. Historians thought that young men being initiated were made to perform in the nude. This theory was proved wrong when evidence of special clothing, whose specific purpose was for athletic initiation. Another theory put forth by historians was nudity being used to erase the lines of status and wealth relating to the participants. This theory was also called to question when evidence of loincloths was found being used for the same purpose. A final argument has been made, saying that in order to prevent erotic feelings, having the athletes perform in the nude would take away any of the erotic mystery, this theory is the most plausible of the three.
            Before the 8th century BCE, athletes were depicted as fully clothed, not only that; but they were also only of the higher classes. There is evidence of nudity being introduced to the Olympics in the late 8th or mid-7th century BCE; this brings the theory that the Spartans were the ones to introduce nudity to the Olympics, due to the fact that it was approximately at this time that nudity was popular in Spartan athletics. By the 5th century BCE, athletic nudity was universally accepted in ancient Greece. The degree of the popularity of athletic nudity was displayed on the many painted vases depicting athletes in the nude from the 6th to the 7th centuries BCE.
            A large part of the reason for nudity becoming popular in athletics is the pride it promoted in the athletes, pride in oneself and pride in manliness. Not only did nudity promote pride, it also eliminated prudish shame felt at the sight of the naked body. The Spartans took this one step further, not only were they nude, they also covered their bodies in oil. This made their bodies seem to shine or glisten, becoming literal adornments.
            I don’t know about you, but I am going to start a petition for athletes to perform naked now, I think it will be well-received by the public…

~Janice

*Originally posted on December 29, 2011*