Who invented the bikini?

Roman bikini babes working out in the gym (PD-EXP)

Roman bikini babes working out in the gym (PD-EXP)

The bikini experienced a surge of popularity in the second half of the 1900s, but the two-piece swimsuit is much older than that. Two millennia previously, Latin writers and poets including Ovid and Martial mentioned bikini-clad athletes and sex workers.

At least five ancient statues exist of Venus clad in a bikini, and at Piazza Armerina in Sicily are fourth-century mosaics depicting ten bikini-clad athletes dancing, running, throwing the discus, playing ball and working out with weights.

Greek paintings from over a thousand years earlier also depict female athletes in two-piece outfits. But we can trace the bikini back further still.

Around 5600 BC, the mother-goddess of Catal Huyuk (Çatalhöyük) was sculpted wearing a garment which some claim resembles a bikini. There are shoulder-straps, although the extent of the garment is not clear to me.

Catal Huyuk is the oldest city ever found, so the bikini may be as old as human civilization itself. The ancients were truly at the forefront of modern fashion.

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