from a sense of shame; 4) for aesthetic reasons, as ornamentation, enjoyment, beauty, and to attract the reverse

sex; 5) for apotropaic reasons, to turn away the effects
of magic, sorcery, the evil eye, and hostile spirits. We
shall see that one or more of these factors can
Additionally clarify what nudity once meant for the Greeks-and how it changed.2
Though it will not function as a protection against the
weather (1), nakedness, like clothes or armour, was
used to differentiate social groups (2), in life and in art.
Clothing, in fact, distinguishes human society, civilized
people, from creatures and wild creatures, which are

Nude. Humans wear clothes, animals do not. In a
clothed society, nonetheless, nakedness is particular, and can
be used as a “costume.” As it developed, Greek nudity
came to mark a comparison between Greek and nonGreek, as well as between men and women. The latter
Differentiation is associated with the most basic connotation of nakedness, the sense of shame, exposure and
exposure it arouses in person (3), and the related sense
of shock evoked by its sight. Clothing was made to
Prevent such powerful emotions by covering the body, especially the male genitals, the phallus, and female genitals and breast. A “body taboo” against nakedness in
People is fairly worldwide.3 There initially existed in

Classical antiquity, as elsewhere, a garment designed
to hide the wearer’s sex organ, a loin cloth, perizoma or
diazoma, as the Greeks generally called it. The attractiveness of
the naked body (4) has frequently been exalted. Its erotic and
aesthetic appeal, as Kenneth Clark has revealed, has
caused an alternative word to be used: this aspect of nakedness is known as “nudity.”4
In the early Near ,5 and in the West
Aphrodite,’ the goddesses of love, were traditionally
Nude. The beauty and strength of the nude male
body were also praised, and heroes, including the Master of Animals, were symbolized naked, or wearing
only a belt.7 It was the Greeks who brought into our
culture the ideal of male nudity as the highest type of
Attractiveness. Greek art and sport exalted the beauty of
the youthful male sportsman, whose figure provided the
model for the hero or youthful god. The image of the
Naked young man, the kouros statue of early Greek art
(contrasting with the clothed female, the kore), embodied the arete or magnificence of an aristocratic youth, who
was kaloskagathos, “wonderful and commendable.”8
Due to the powerful emotions of shame, shock,
lust, admiration, violation, commiseration, and disgust aroused
by the sight of the naked human body, the most frequent organizations are with taboo, magic, and ritual
(5). When the sexual organ was uncovered,
was unleashed. Apotropaic and enchanting nudity, calling for the exposure of male genitals and female
breasts, and the exhibition of the enlarged male phallus have been used from early times, and testify to the
Bearing power of this sophisticated image. As a taboo, it
can protect against the evil eye. Like the Gorgon’s
gaze, it can paralyze or shield. The partial nudity or
Vulnerability of a woman’s breast or genitals, for instance,
can signify weakness and powerlessness; but it can
also function as strong magic.9 In art and in life,

belief in such magic powers is well attested in many
cultures throughout history, and has lived into our
own times. Phallic or “priapic” figurines and amulets,
as well as obscene gestures, still function as protection
against the evil eye in many parts of the world. When
Clothing is ordinary, exhibitionist actions of nakedness normally
have a magical significance. In the world of magic, nudity
wards off a spell or other dangerous type of magic, compels love, and gives strength to one’s own practice of
witchcraft and conjuring.”1 Since, then, in a clothed
society nudity was exceptional, grievous, dangerous, and
Strong,”1 complete nakedness was avoided in everyday life. It was saved for particular situations or unique
Rite services.
Language, too, maintained traces of this magic power
of nakedness. The word, like the fact, had to be
avoided, so that its magic power could be maintained. A
linguistic taboo consequently caused the sort of the word for
“naked” to transform, in all the Indoeuropean languages.
Though gymnos, nudus, nackt, etc. were all originally
related to each other-so linguists guarantee us-they
were all transformed in diverse and surprising ways,
so that their initial likeness is nearly unrecognizable.12 For most parts of the body, there is what
Devoto called a “succinct” vocabulary:13 the words for
“heart,” “eye,” “foot,” “knee,” “nose,” “tooth,” “eyebrow” are essentially the same in all the Indoeuropean

languages. Differences can be accounted for, even described, by linguistic “rules.” But words for “nude,”
In addition to the names of specific parts of the bodyfinger, tongue, hand, and hair-are distinct in the
different languages. How can this be explained? Indoeuropeans clearly had fingers, tongues, hands, hair,
and nakedness; and they must have had names for