Ancient Rome’s bikinis, in Piazza Armerina
Some say that the Late-Empire mosaics in Villa del Casale – in Piazza Armerina, Sicily – prove that the Romans invented the bikini. The tesserae indeed portray girls in athletics competitions, wearing two-piece suits.
The luxurious, 4th-century Villa del Casale, which extends over approximately 3,500 square meters and was discovered in 1950, is a treasure chest of mosaic art including realistic, mythological, and “genre” scenes – that experts strive to tie into a single, overarching project.
Archaeologist Andrea Carandini has commented, “the overall interpretation of the mosaic complex revolves around the victory of men over passions and brute force, thanks to music (Orpheus versus earthly beasts, Arion over the marine ones), shrewdness (Ulysses and Polyphemus, Eros and Pan), and strength (hunters and they prays, Jove and other giants, Bacchus and Lycurgus, Hercules and the Bistones, etc.). Thus, both athletics competitions and Hercules’s labors […] ultimately hint to the supremacy of ‘virtus’ and ‘felicitas’ over chaos and evil powers” (“Filosofiana. La Villa di Piazza Armerina”, Flaccovio, Palermo 1982).
Obviously, Roman artists had in mind much more than girls in bikinis.