Venus in a Bikini

The latest celebrity trend seems to be posting bikini shots on Twitter. I've already posted about the Piazza Armerina girls (left and here) and the leather bikini bottoms at the Museum of London (here), but there are a few more images of Roman bikinis ...

This statue was excavated at Pompeii, in a cupboard in cupboard in the tablinium of the House of Julia Felix aka La Casa della Venere in Bikini and is now in the 'private museum' section in the museum in Naples (photo); the house dates to between AD 62 and 79, and stood on the via dell'Abbondanza.

Someone has also posted a colour photo of the statue on Flickr - it's "all rights reserved" which technically is incorrect under US law, but ... click here to see the full image.

An inscription confirms that Julia Felix was trying to rent out the property when Vesuvius errupted (no 20 here).
If you want to see another bikini shot in the Secret Museum, click here (warning - it's a brothel scene so NSFW).

This little mosaic from Piazza Armerina shows a woman in a state of undress in a similar 'bikini' top - she seems to have forgotten the bottoms in her lust ... Of course the term bikini is misleading as they were not intended for sunbathing.

The sets (with bottoms) as seen in the first image were used for exercise and worn by dancing showgirls. The bottom part was called a subligaculum and is well attested in ancient sources. The bandeau top went by a variety of names, suggesting different uses, but they worked by binding the breasts (big boobs were not 'in' in for the Greeks and Romans; a big penis was a sure sign of being a barbarian).

Men could also be pre-occupied with undergarments, particularly warm ones for the Roman soldiers stationed at Vindolanda on the Scottish frontier - as this surviving tablet attests (Vindolanda Inventory No. 87.622 or as the Daily Mail put it "They came, they saw... and they asked for new underpants")


  1. I guess that all this tells us is that Ecc. 1:9 is true. Nothing is new under the sun. These images make the sports bra and beginning an old fashioned idea and not a modern innovation.

    Also, it seems that men wanted to keep their little swimmers warm in in the ancient world in order to reproduce better. Hmmm...seems that very little is 'new'.

  2. 'beginning ' was supposed to be 'bikini'...sorry about that

  3. I'd say the biggest difference is that today women wear these in public, whilst in the past they didn’t?


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