Maria Sakkari: Greek Goddess or Greek Olympian

In Athens, the city of her birth, Sakkari sails back 25 centuries to the 5th century BCE. Male nude olympians everywhere sculpted in all their glory. History’s greatest ideas buzz around them like bees: Democracy, Drama, Dialectic. Due to Maria’s athletic prowess—her sprinter’s speed, her gynmast’s arms–she is allowed to compete in the Olympic Games. She wins a bronze medal in the discus throw, a silver in the sprints.

Maria walks through Athens—both modern and ancient– like those weight lifters I watch in the gym. As the photographer Jim Fawcette says of his photograph here: “She looks to me like a gymnast playing tennis, both because of the combination of her relatively small size with her muscles, plus her movement.” Not just the perfect athletic body, but a body that advertises its perfection, muscles bristling everywhere yet perfectly contained within her dynamic frame.

Movies, fictions, fantasies. dreams . . . Because of Maria’s success as an athlete in the 5th century BCE, all women are allowed to compete. Soon girls are encouraged on every athletic field. In the world’s first democracy, women soon earn the right to vote. Women start sculpting those heroic male nudes, then female nudes that challenge all future notions of what Aphrodite or Venus—goddess of female beauty—might look like. A few centuries later Christ walks the earth. “The world’s transformed utterly. / A terrible beauty is born.”*

*final lines of WB Yeats’ “Easter, 1916.”

Artist bio: Jim Fawcette’s great photos of ATP and WTA tennis players can be found on his website and on flickr.

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