Nudity In Antiquity (18+ Age Only)
By the way, if you are not old enough (under the age of 18 in most cases), or easily offended by 2,600 years old pottery shards depicting male or female nudity, or snapshot from animation depicting partial nudity, please stop reading this article.
[Disclaimer: This article contains no frontal nudity, except depicted in 2,600 years old pottery]
Undies In The Ancient World?
As I look at what I am wearing, I wouldn't help to notice the first and the most important piece of my clothing that represents my modern day (2016) modesty which cover up my body's nether region, Yes, I am talking about my panties, which is size Small for 24” waist and 36” hip. And Yes, for 12 Euros (or 20 US Dollars) you can purchase a pack of 3 from the nearest convenience store and pick and choose your size, style, and color.
Figure 1 - My undies, pack of 3 for $20
This means in our time (the year 2016), any woman works in a industrialized country can get to own one pair of undies with less than one hour of labor even if you hold a minimum wage job.
2,500 years ago, however, it has quite a different outlook:
the material for my undies (100% processed cotton) were not available. The raw cotton were available in small parts of the Indus Valley in India but it was very rough. As a matter of fact, with the exception of silk and certain reed in the Nile River and Eastern part of the Black Sea shore, fabrics in classical time comes to close contact with the body will cut into the wearer's skin and also irritates within minutes of putting it against your body. Particularly we are talking about areas between your legs where skin is more sensitive.
Not to mention to weave the rough and uncomfortable fabrics and then make the fabrics into a cloth, even for the small size of my undies would have taken days, if not weeks of highly skilled craft and labor. With the exceptions of small part of Northern China where “men are to farm, and women are to weave” as part of government institutionalized social program, in years of 500BCE-400BCE, 99.99% of communities in the rest of the world have no woven rough fabrics for underwear other than material woven by hand. If you are interested about the spinning wheeling, India sported the world's first know spinning wheel for weaving fabrics after 500AD. But spinning wheel for weaving was not widely accepted even in India until 1,000AD. So what do people wear for underwear in 500BCE?
Wool and cured fur are actually far better alternatives than agriculturally produced fabrics. Wool is easier to weave but still rough if not processed properly and will cut and raw the skin if used as underwear.
Cured fur is more like the nature's readily made clothing for humankind, but there are issues with stitching and maintaining its structural integrity. So maintenance of such clothing took a great deal of time and then probably will not last over 5 or 6 years under heavy use, even if meticulously maintained.
Both wool and fur are not good clothing during Summer, nor for wearing for working under the hot sun.
So what do ordinary folks wear as underwear doing their daily chore which involved heavy labor, or conducting battle drills or combat practice, or engaging in sports and competition which involved a great deal of sweating?
You probably guessed it, for common people, even though they might wear hat or head covers, even wearing their sandals or boots while working, sometimes even wear a cape to deflect wind, but they would on majority of such occasions be naked while working on tasks which are laborious.
Some readers might ask, “if all are as you stated, are the ancient people exhibitionists?”
No, not really, but given the cost and time required to make a pair of undies, even if the suitable fabrics is on hand to be made into underwear or sweat shirt, and the fact that most of part of the world do not have suitable material, they really do not have any choice for underwear. This can be differentiated from wearing a hat or head cover, what is the difference? Our hair are natural gift to provide a buffer between our skin and the contact with the rough fiber or reed. So wearing a brim hat or head-cloth such as a turban or a bandana made of rough fabrics is a far better way to shield the wearer from the sun then say wearing a rough cloth to cover our torso. Again because there weren't suitable material in most part of the world and physiology dictated that movement of our torso and limbs cannot come into rubbing motion with rough material for prolonged period of time. Undies made of rough material are just not the practical things to wear.
Figure 2 - Athena Defends the Vestal Virgins, from pottery 500BCE, notice the dress code of the day for the virgin
Before the reader bring this up, there WAS a counter evidence in the mosaic of the Piazza Armerina, in Sicily, showing a woman wearing bikini like outfit. However, if you examine the context of the mosaic, it was a celebration of motherhood. Meaning the woman has just given birth and wearing the Strophium and the Subligaculum so as to allow her to enjoy exercising while not getting messy with bodily fluids which may come out of her breast or vagina. Even closer examination would show her lower abdominal region was depicted as a sack, a typical new mother's outer appearance.
Figure 2a - Mosaic of Piazza De Armerina showing a woman wearing a bikini like outfit
Etiquette of Nudity and Clothing
Perhaps many readers already knew that the word “gymnasium” is a Latin word derived from the Greek “γυμνάσιον” (or gymnasion) which is in term derived from the Greek word γυμνός (gymnos) meaning "naked". You can also say that gymnasium means “to train naked”, or “a place to train naked”. This root origin of the word gave pretty good idea of how the 5th century BCE people going about their exercise and physical training.
Figure 3 - Ancient Wrestling Practice, notice even the coach and the aid are naked.
Also in antiquity, when a group of strangers arrived at a village or a town, usually the custom dictated that they go to a place just outside of the gate or a known traffic spot outside of the community, and there will be a drum, a horn, or a gong hanging there, and the visitors were to blast the horn or strike the gong to announce their presence. At this time, most town or village people who can hear the alarm will either stop working, or keep on their task, but begin to look “respectable” (meaning getting dressed, or in time of turmoil, also getting weapons handy). Once the strangers were identified by the watch person, the watch person will ask for the burgher on duty or the village elder to see if the strangers should be admitted inside the gate. If there are public announcement to be made by the visitors, the visitors and the village elder will then go the public “square”, where there is another gong or instrument to call the town folks to congregate, meet the visitors to hear the announcement. Some runic carving in the Baltic coast even suggested that the visitors can use code to announce their purpose of visit. For example, if they blasted the horn three times of equal duration, they are only intending to visit certain part of the town or certain friends in the community. This is done so everyone else can stay on what they are doing (naked or not) and not bother to get dressed if they are working on their chores.
From 500BCE to 600CE, a time span of 11 centuries, there were also records of laws instituted in desert regions of China, the Caucasus Mountains and the Steppe of Central Asia which forbid two grown men to co-own a place of habitation, such as a cave, a yurt (nomadic tent), or a house. The reason being, many tribes tend to have a large family cohabit a place of dwelling, over generations, when the males and the females of the household got too comfortable (or too uncomfortable due to weather, depends on your point of view), they would walk around doing their house chores naked. In such conditions, many incestuous or unwelcome relationships developed and which undoubtedly led to problems.
In the ancient world, clothing served the following purposes
Official functions, such as duties performed by rulers and bureaucrats.
Ceremonies, such as festivities, weddings, or funerals. Fancy dresses for you particularly if you were to wed, or if you died.
Shield the wearer from the sun and the wind.
Keep the wearer warm.
- Provide buffer for specific work the wearer is doing.
Not necessarily in that order, but notice that keeping modesty is not one of them. And undies have no purpose in those days.
Loincloth on the other hand, is different, anthropology can date it back to 7,000 years, and from the physiological perspective, working folks wearing the loincloths usually only have the thongs or belt around their waist and the rough cloth is hanging down from the front, or from both behind and in front of the body. This represents the minimum contact of the rough fabrics to the skin, and the weight bearing is around an area (the waist) where there are no muscle, only skin and subcutaneous fat plus the hip bone and the backbones to hold the thongs of the loincloth. To trace how far back civilization have been wearing loincloth, King Tut wears a triangular loincloth in his burial.
For women, the loincloth actually has many functions, for menstrual cycle, I tried a 4,600 years old Egyptian recipe (likely originated from Imhotep) of cleaned sponge held in place with a rough loincloth tucked backwards, it worked very well if you don't have to run or walk a long distance. The sponge actually served as a buffer to protect the skin in the nether region from rubbing against the rough fabrics while seal the menstruation. For swimming, loincloth with additives and then wrapped around the nether region can also protect the orifices from parasites. No, there were no swimming pool with guaranteed clean water back then.
In the steppe, 2,500 years ago, the rider of steppe pony (the best example of ancient horses) would wear long loincloth with front and the back covers. The rider would wrap one of the loincloth (usually the front goes to the right and back cloth goes to the left), and the loincloths would serve as a jerkins to protect the rider from rubbing the thighs against the saddle over prolonged period of riding. When I was in Central Asia doing archaeological dig, I tried to ride the steppe pony in a pair of shorts without stirrup for 30KM (18 miles), and my thighs were so raw afterwards, I had to recuperate for 3 days to recover.
So imagine the vista of an ancient rider, by which I meant he or she rather stay butt naked, but use the loincloth as jerkins, so as to stay on the horse for longer travel. It is all in a day's work in 5th century BC.
Dress Code For Combat
Figure 4 - Amazon Roman Auxilia in Amazons Total War mod, well armored but still butt naked.
So as we are talking about clothing and nudity for our mod, Amazons: Total War, let us made clear that no government in the ancient time can afford the concept of uniform, although they did issue armors and equipment, some through codified rules and regulations, which made it appear that their soldiers are wearing something in uniformity. There are only two exceptions to this:
1. Romans, because they have massive slave industries and later conquered people who are willing to stay with the legionary garrison to trade cloth.
2. Small parts of China in and before the warring period, where men were expected to till the land and women to weave and to raise silk worms. Yet, hundreds of years later, when China was unified and the institutionalized weaving stopped, even the terracotta army of the Qin-Shi Emperor do not have uniform dress, but like we mentioned before, they do share same style armor and equipment. The proof is in the examination of the color coating residues of the terracotta itself, since the terracotta soldiers were painted and the color faded over 2,300 years of time, using microscope we can still exam the color pigment and deduced what different color of shirts soldiers are actually depicted to be wearing. Their undercoats can be red, pink, turquoise or white, which are some of the colors discovered, with soldiers of the same unit wearing different colors. Also, some wore long sleeves and some others are short elbow length sleeves. And this was supposed to be the soldiers guarding the emperor's tomb, the most elite troop of Qin Dynasty's China got to offer. If we have the Qin army put on a parade today, the modern military professional will raise their collective eyebrows at the variety of colors these soldiers wear underneath their government issued armors.
As we examine the Romans, there is no record of padding or undershirt as standard equipment, yet by rational deduction, every soldier got to have proper under shirt(s).
Reason one being that the metal armor coming into contact with the wearer will burn the skin during long march under the hot sun. There was a horrific execution of the Roman soldiers by the Germans where they will remove the padding and the clothing of the legionnaire and press the soldier's armor to the naked body. They then tied the soldier either to the tree or a stake under the hot sun. Overtime, the heat from the sun will heat up the armor's metal and scorch the wearer's body. The burn will then fester and the victim will die of fever due to infection and gangrene. The whole process can take weeks while the captors gleefully provided water and food to make sure the victim died of slow death
Reason two is that sweat came into contact with armor will cause accelerated corrosion and hence accelerate the process of rusting.
Reason three being that without padding in the helmet or armor, a soldier can avoid flesh wound but still suffer blunt trauma from a blow to the head or the torso.
You might ask how do the armies conduct combat drill? Well, we know a score of non-tribal armies, including the Thessalians, the Romans, the Macedonians, the Greeks, the Dacians, and the Gauls who invaded the Greece after Alexander's death all trained their soldiers naked. Even the overdressed Chinese had records of soldiers felt the need to disrobe in the heat of the battle, so they can fight the enemy unimpeded by their clothing.
So the Amazons Total War mod design rule #1 states: A well trained army must not allow its recruit's civilian dress come into the way of combat drill. Therefore in the mod, we are depicting a regular military unit with armor and equipment, but nothing else, ie, the soldiers are naked underneath. This combining all the facets I presented earlier together with the best guess of what they would wear.
Figure 5 - Amazon's Pathfinder Cavalry, the best of the light cavalry units
As for the militia units, this can be depending on their background, but mostly should be naked besides their protective gears (again with padding) and their weapons.
Figure 6- Libyan Amazon's Ballista Cavalry, militia cavalry units are a norm in Amazons Total War mod
The only exception is the peasant and tribal huntsmen units, such as the Thracian Peltasts and Iranistan Hillmen. These units are dressed as to their hunting attires and they can be ferocious fighters, but their combat drill would be lacking, and therefore their defense and offense point in the mod also reflecting that.
Many readers have made the comments that Amazons are fictional, they only existed in the figment of the Greek's imagination. So why so serious about "realism", the whole mod is a fantasy mod anyway.
The answer lies in that, from archaeological evidence and anthropological extrapolations, the ancient horses are mostly only 12 hands tall, (4 foot or 121 cm), really glorified ponies. The premises of the Amazons Total War mod is always being that:
Given reality of small size of the ancient horses, women would make superior cavalry soldiers than men. And with the archaeological finding in Russia, Central Asia, and Ukraine supporting matriarchal societies with women warriors, Amazons are becoming more of an ancient fable coming into reality, along the similar happenings with the city of Troy. So you think it is a coincidence that nearly all Amazons mentioned in the Greek stories have their nom de guerre associated with horses?
We wouldn't doing justice if we are not trying to be true to our theses.
Bottom line is nudity in antiquity does not equate pornography, it is only after 25 centuries of societal evolution and behavioral-modification that some of us come to feel that way.
For a sample of Amazons Total War 8.0 mod, you can click the link to YouTube below (18+ age only)
- July 2016, Lisa Kampfbelle, PhD