Throughout early human history, nudity was part of normal everyday life. Clothing was practical and was either worn for warmth, protection or, in some cases, for social or ceremonial purposes. If we look at Ancient Greek and Roman cultures, nudity is commonplace. In recent human history, however, the attitude towards nudity has varied over time and place. With the rise of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, nudity was discouraged as it was seen as being ‘pagan.’ Nudity did see a rise in popularity in the Renaissance period, with depictions of nude gods and deities. But then nudity fell out of favour once more with the rise of industrialisation and urbanisation, and the very oppressive and pious movements of that period – think of the Puritans in America, and the Victorians here in the UK. The modern-day naturist movement began in Europe during the 19th century as a response to this, peaking in popularity in the early 20th century.
Here is a quick run through of the history of nudity and naturism:
Ancient Greece 800BC – 400AD
In ancient Greece, nudity was an everyday occurrence throughout society. Students received their education in the nude, people bathed together nude, and athletes trained and competed in the nude. Youth and physical fitness were revered, and the human body was a work of the divine, which ought to be admired. The Olympic Games was a demonstration of the best athletes, displaying their strength, stamina and skill, with the entire human body on show. Even female athletes competed nude. The Olympics were banned in 393AD by a Christian emperor, who thought the idea was pagan.
The Renaissance in Europe reawakened the idea of the human body being associated with the divine. Humanism and the human body were celebrated again, and this was reflected in the art of the time, with Michelangelo’s David probably the best-known example. Clothing was designed to display Women’s cleavages, and sometimes entire breasts, as a symbol of youth and beauty, up until the woman married. It is suggested that even Queen Elizabeth I openly displayed her breasts to prove her status as ‘the Virgin Queen.’
1700 – 1900
The word ‘naturism’ was used first used by Belgian Jean Baptiste Luc Planchon in 1778 as a means of improving the hygiène de vie or healthy living. This was at a time when much of Europe was going through rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, which meant problems with hygiene and disease in urban centres. Attitudes towards nudity were very restrictive at this time, especially during the Victorian period, where it would have been scandalous even to bare your ankle, for fear that someone should become sexually aroused.
Source: Naturist Cleaners
Original publication 23 March, 2019
Posted on NatCorn 8th April 2021
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