Sunday, July 08, 2007

May 2007 - Piazza Armerina, Sicily - Origin of the Bikini?

It turned out that town in the distance was, in fact, Piazza Armerina, and it did have a gas station. We visited this small town in the center of Sicily, which has been inhabited since the 8th century B.C., primarily to see the ancient Roman Villa del Casale.Upon arriving at the archaeological site, we immediately fell in love with this sweet dog (above) - smart enough to con Casandra out of half her lunch.She was lying out on the edge of the former baths while her pups played in what was once a calidarium (ancient sauna), above.

This Villa dating back to the 3rd-4th century A.D. is located just outside of Piazza Armerina. The once state-of-the-art Villa del Casale was part of a large estate belonging to a wealthy Roman. The Villa is famous for its incredible mosaics that decorated every room. The mosaics were preserved thanks to a flood in the 12th century that buried them in mud. The Villa was discovered in the late 19th century and since then the baths, internal courtyard, owner's private apartments and the long corridor which connects it all have been amazingly restored and preserved.
As we passed the pups and entered the baths, we saw the frigidarium (cold bath room), above, which is decorated with mosaics depicting mythical sea creatures.
Then we headed into the foyer of the main house, above. A common theme for mosaics displayed in a home's public areas is the victories of Rome and the spread of the empire through famous, epic battles.
We then encountered the long corridor famous for its hunting scenes.
This passageway depicts wild game hunting and boars and lions being captured and loaded onto ships presumably to provide entertainment in amphitheatres spread all over the empire.
As we entered the vestibule to the private apartments, we saw this mosaic depicting Ulysses and Polyphemus (the cyclops).
Mosaics in the private apartments were often sexual as they were intended to entertain only the owner and his mistress. This one is of a seductive young woman showing off her derriere while a young man (presumably the owner) embraces her passionately.
Also found in one of the private apartments, is the most famous of all mosaics at the Villa - the Hall of the Female Gymnasts in Bikinis.
Now we know who invented the bikini. In this mosaic, there are 10 female gymnasts performing different sports and providing a wonderful record of the fashions of their time.
Look at the girls dancing in bikinis, that's still a popular activity.
A bikini and dumbells - perhaps she was the Jane Fonda of her day.
Could this be the crowning of Miss Piazza Armerina 400 A.D.?
And a closer shot of the 1st runner up.
Girls in bikinis playing volleyball. Perhaps the Romans invented beach volleyball too! One things for sure, there isn't much these girls won't do in their bikinis.
The countryside surrounding the Villa is made up of rolling green hills and beautiful pastures of wild flowers. It's no wonder some wealthy Roman invested so much time and money to have this magnificent estate built here. Now there are many beautiful villas dotting the landscape in this area.

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