Revealed! Naked truth about the ancient Greeks


Written on Monday, February 05, 2007 by Gemini

Ever wondered why Greek art is always in the nude? Researchers claim to have found the answer. They say nudity was a costume used by artists to depict various roles of men, ranging from heroicism and status to defeat, reports Livescience.

“In ancient Greek art, there are many different kinds of nudity that can mean many different things,” said Jeffrey Hurwit, an historian of ancient art at the University of Oregon. “Sometimes they are contradictory,” he says.

Hurwit’s newly published research shows that the Greeks did walk around in the buff in some situations. Men strode about free of their togas in the bedroom and at parties called symposia, where they would eat, drink and carouse. Nudity was also common on the athletic fields and at the Olympic games. (Because there are so many images of Greek athletes, some lay people have assumed the Greeks were in their birthday suits all the time.) However, nudity was often risky for the Greeks.

“Greek males, it is generally agreed, did not walk around town naked, they did not ride their horses naked, and they certainly did not go into battle naked,” Hurwit said. “In most public contexts, clothing was not optional, and in combat nakedness was suicidal.”

Warriors are often, but not always, represented in the nude. Artists demonstrated the physical prowess men used to defeat their enemies. But, as Hurwit said, if you can go into battle naked, you've got to be pretty good. The research also found examples of defeated, dying and dead naked men. In these cases, nudity represented the subjects’ vulnerabilities.

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