Why Isn't Clarence Wearing Pants?

photo of the head of a statue of an Ancient Greek boxer known to history as DamoxenosBy the reference desk in the Central Library is a statue of an Ancient Greek boxer known to history as Damoxenos.

However, for as long anyone can remember he's been known around Somerville as Clarence. And like all Ancient Greek athletes depicted in sculpture, Clarence isn't wearing anything.

A few days ago a woman who was clearly in a hurry came into the main reading room with two small children. One of them, a boy who looked about five or six, pointed to Clarence and asked, "Why isn't he wearing pants?" The woman, presumably his mother, was obviously in a rush to get what she wanted and be on her way and said, "We'll talk about this later." The boy, clearly of a curious bent, asked, "I want to know why he's not wearing pants." His harried mother said, "Not now." The boy, clearly burning with a thirst for knowledge worthy of a Galileo or a Magellan, stamped his foot and said, "I DEMAND TO KNOW WHY HE'S NOT WEARING PANTS!" Then they left. The child is gone.

But the question remains: Why isn't Clarence wearing pants? The easy answer is that Greek artists often depicted men, especially athletes, nude, but that doesn't really answer the question.

To understand the prevalence of naked men in Greek art, you have to understand two Greek beliefs. First the Greeks believed that a physically fit body was a reflection of a fine mind and even a beautiful soul, so it makes sense that their art would celebrate muscular bodies, which indicated spiritual as well as physical development. Second, for the Greeks nudity could be a sort of costume. At athletic events, nudity was essentially an outfit displaying their prowess.

So young man, wherever you are, that's why Clarence doesn't wear pants. I wish you well.

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