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Beware, hapless viewer, unsuspecting beholder of the marvelous creatures presented on these pages. I offer you here a cautionary tale, knowing full well that I'm writing for a readership that's really a viewership. Putting my words beside these images is like trying to get an audience with the Greek and Roman gods—they'll most likely ignore you, or be extremely irritated by your entreaties.
But how's this for an incentive: What I have to say here might save your life.
A reference to the ancient gods of Greece and Rome is appropriate because this issue is centered in the Mediterranean and is replete with Babe Goddesses. This is our Swimsuit Odyssey; we went to Tunisia and Morocco and Greece to present the beautiful images between these covers.
I begin my cautionary tale with none other than Plato, the Greek philosopher who invented the ideal Form, the guy who put the high in hierarchy. Plato believed that everything we see is merely the approximation of an ideal form, the superlative: the perfect drinking glass, for example; in fact, the pure essence of drinking glass. The drinkingest, glassiest of glasses. You get the idea. Plato posited that all these ideal forms exist beyond the known world. When it came to ideal forms, Plato agreed with MC Hammer—"U can't touch this!"
What better example of an ideal form than the Babe Goddesses on these pages? The gods and goddesses of mythology, after all, hit their peak-week and stayed there eternally, pigging out on nectar and ambrosia, waistlines unaffected. A Babe Goddess is a woman so beautiful that she puts a distance between herself and the world, between herself and you. You stand there feeling the gravity of your own weight while she floats by, oblivious to you and all other earthly concerns. You'd like to reach out to her, perhaps hold her in your arms, but you can't. And that, dear viewer, is, whether or not you realize it, a very good thing, and you should consider yourself to be extremely fortunate. For woe to those who attempt to penetrate that sheath that separates the Babe Goddesses from the rest of us.
On this point Zeus, like Plato, would bring down the Hammer: Can't touch that! Not because Zeus wanted to keep all the babes to himself, although I'm sure that was part of his agenda. No, it was because of the code. The mortal-to-god code. Along with passing out duties for all the gods, Zeus enforced plenty of rules on how mortals were to interact with the gods, all of them proscriptive. You never challenged the gods, never tried to cheat them. You never hid the good parts of the sacrifice-like sticking the meaty parts of the goat under the entrails, for example. Steal something from a god and you'd end up like Prometheus, bound to a rock while an eagle snacked on your liver every day for oh, say, a very long time. Another big no-no for Zeus was that no mortal could ever, under any condition, put a move on a god or goddess. In fact, should a mortal gaze upon a goddess's true form, chances were he'd be toast. Which is why, when gods were forced to come down to earth for whatever mortal clamoring or transgression needed to be addressed, they morphed into human or animal form. For our protection.
Zeus and his brothers, Poseidon and Hades, were all about hierarchical structures, and nothing bespoke hierarchy more than traditional gender roles in sexual relations. At the top of the pile—in this case, Mount Olympus—were the male gods. Next in line were the female gods. So far down the line that they may as well not have even been in line were humans. As far as Zeus was concerned, humans were the epitome of the imperfect, the lowest of the low.
Of course, gods will be gods, and accidents happen. Mating with humans was something the gods might do on a whim. When a god mated with a woman, the offspring were the heroes of legend: Achilles, Hercules, Theseus. But when a goddess mated with a man, the result was trouble. Big trouble. In fact, there was hell to pay—for the man, that is. The goddess would simply shake her impeccable head and be on her way. Even then, beauty had its privileges.
Every red-blooded Greek and Roman stud in antiquity knew these rules, knew that goddesses, however desirable, were off-limits. But a lot of time has passed since Zeus was in the headlines, and we've been lulled into a complacent stupor. We've forgotten the old taboos. As you savor the pulchritude displayed in this issue, I know what you are thinking—you imagine yourself piercing the Platonic veneer of the glossy page and touching these divine beings. Well, forget it. You don't want to know how much grief you would be in for if you somehow got your trembling, all-too-mortal hands on one of them.
Don't believe me? Look to your mythology. Take Anchises—one of the lucky ones—who was only blinded or maimed, depending on which author you read, after boasting about his roll on the animal skins with Aphrodite.