Women Exercising Naked

Women Exercising Naked
Women Exercising Naked

It is very difficult to investigate the hairiness of Ainu women,” Baelz remarks, “for they possess a really incredible degree of modesty. Even when in summer they bathe—which happens but seldom—they keep their clothes on.” He records that he was once asked to examine a girl at the Mission School, in order to advise as regards the treatment of a diseased spine; although she had been at the school for seven years, she declared that “she would rather die than show her back to a man, even though a doctor.” (Baelz, “Die Aino,” Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 1901, Heft 2, p. 178).

The Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans, appear to have been accustomed to cover the foreskin with the kynodesme (a band), or the fibula (a ring), for custom and modesty demanded that the glans should be concealed. Such covering is represented in persons who were compelled to be naked, and is referred to by Celsus as “decori causâ.” (L. Stieda, “Anatomisch-archäologische Studien,” Anatomische Hefte, Bd. XIX, Heft 2, 1902).

Among the Lydians, and, indeed, among the barbarians generally, it is considered a deep disgrace, even for a man, to be seen naked.” (Herodotus, Book I, Chapter X).

 

The simple dress which is now common was first worn in Sparta, and there, more than anywhere else, the life of the rich was assimilated to that of the people. The Lacedæmonians, too, were the first who, in their athletic exercises, stripped naked and rubbed themselves over with oil. This was not the ancient custom; athletes formerly, even when they were contending at Olympia, wore girdles about their loins [earlier still, the Mycenæans had always worn a loin-cloth], a practice which lasted until quite lately, and still persists among barbarians, especially those of Asia, where the combatants at boxing and wrestling matches wear girdles.” (Thucydides, History, Book I, Chapter VI).

 

The notion of the women exercising naked in the schools with the men … at the present day would appear truly ridiculous…. Not long since it was thought discreditable and ridiculous among the Greeks, as it is now among most barbarous nations, for men to be seen naked. And when the Cretans first, and after them the Lacedæmonians, began the practice of gymnastic exercises, the wits of the time had it in their power to make sport of those novelties…. As for the man who laughs at the idea of undressed women going through gymnastic exercises, as a means of revealing what is most perfect, his ridicule is but ‘unripe fruit plucked from the tree of wisdom.'” (Plato, Republic, Book V.)

According to Plutarch, however, among the Spartans, at all events, nakedness in women was not ridiculous, since the institutes of Lycurgus ordained that at solemn feasts and sacrifices the young women should dance naked and sing, the young men standing around in a circle to see and hear them. Aristotle says that in his time Spartan girls only wore a very slight garment. As described by Pausanias, and as shown by a statue in the Vatican, the ordinary tunic, which was the sole garment worn by women when running, left bare the right shoulder and breast, and only reached to the upper third of the thighs. (M. M. Evans, Chapters on Greek Dress, p. 34).

 

Among the Greeks who were inclined to accept the doctrines of Cynicism, it was held that, while shame is not unreasonable, what is good may be done and discussed before all men. There are a number of authorities who say that Crates and Hipparchia consummated their marriage in the presence of many spectators. Lactantius (Inst. iii, 15) says that the practice was common, but this Zeller is inclined to doubt. (Zeller, Socrates and the Socratic Schools, translated from the Third German Edition, 1897).

 

“Among the Tyrrhenians, who carry their luxury to an extraordinary pitch, Timæus, in his first book, relates that the female servants wait on the men in a state of nudity. And Theopompus, in the forty-third book of his History, states that it is a law among the Tyrrhenians that all their women should be in common; and that the women pay the greatest attention to their persons, and often practice gymnastic exercises, naked, among the men, and sometimes with one another; for that it is not accounted shameful for them to be seen naked…. Nor is it reckoned among the Tyrrhenians at all disgraceful either to do or suffer anything in the open air, or to be seen while it is going on; for it is quite the custom of their country, and they are so far from thinking it disgraceful that they even say, when the master of the house is indulging his appetite, and anyone asks for him, that he is doing so and so, using the coarsest possible words…. And they are very beautiful, as is natural for people to be who live delicately, and who take care of their persons.” (Athenæus, Deipnosophists, Yonge’s translation, vol. iii, p. 829).

Dennis throws doubt on the foregoing statement of Athenæus regarding the Tyrrhenians or Etruscans, and points out that the representations of women in Etruscan tombs shows them as clothed, even the breast being rarely uncovered. Nudity, he remarks, was a Greek, not an Etruscan, characteristic.

“To the nudity of the Spartan women I need but refer; the Thessalian women are described by Persæus dancing at banquets naked, or with a very scanty covering (apud Athenæus, xiii, c. 86). The maidens of Chios wrestled naked with the youths in the gymnasium, which Athenæus (xiii, 20) pronounces to be ‘a beautiful sight.’ And at the marriage feast of Caranus, the Macedonian women tumblers performed naked before the guests (Athenæus, iv, 3).” (G. Dennis, Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria, 1883, vol. i, p. 321).

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