The 1700-year old Italian girls in bikini

In this last month of summer, lots of us are craving some bikini-time before autumn weather sets in and the small clothing items are put away for next summertime. And while the fashion industry this year celebrates the bikini’s 70 year birthday – supposedly invented by Louis Réard in 1946 – it’s actually close to 1700 years old!

Before anyone did anything, Romans did it first. As with the bikini. This truth is wonderfully graphic in the mosaic tiles of the UNESCO World Heritage site “Villa Romana del Casale” in Sicily.

Villa Romana del Casale2

This majestic imperial villa dates back to 320-350 AD and belonged to the upper class – maybe even the imperial class – of the Roman Empire. It was damaged, perhaps even destroyed, during the oppression of the Vandals and the Visigoths, but the buildings remained in use, at least in part, during the Byzantine and Arab period. The site was finally abandoned for good when a landslide covered the villa in the 12th century.

The existence of the villa was almost entirely forgotten until pieces of mosaics and some columns were found early in the 19th century, and some excavations were carried out later in that century. But its wasn’t until the first half of the 20th century, that the villa was properly excavated, bringing to light 3000 square metres of mosaic flooring – figurative and geometric – along with wall mosaics, columns, statues, capitals and coins.

Today, after several years of careful excavation and restoration, the site welcomes visitors from all over the world and is “noteworthy for the richness and quality of the mosaics which decorate almost every room; they are the finest mosaics in situ anywhere in the Roman world” (UNESCO quote).

Back to the girls in bikini: In the Sala delle Dieci Ragazze in Bikini – Hall of the Ten Girls in Bikini – there is a mosaic showing two rows of girls dressed in bikini. The young women concentrate on performing their various exercises: weight-lifting, discus throwing, running, and playing ball-games. In the bottom row, a girl wearing a toga is about to crown another girl (also awarding her the palm of victory) who has been performing exercises with a hoop, trundling it with the aid of a stick.

Villa Romana del Casale

So, as a conclusion, our Roman sisters back in the day needed to exercise just as much as we do, in order to look great in a bikini. So get of this website and away from your computer, get outside and play some ball – while it’s still warm enough to wear that bikini!

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