Ancient writers like Pliny the Elder often waxed lyrical about the statue of Aphrodite on the island of Knidos (now located in south-east Turkey). Crafted in the 4th century BC by the Athenian sculptor Praxiteles, the Aphrodite of Knidos depicted the goddess of love fully naked and preparing to bathe – but demurely covering her genitals with one hand. Historians believe that Praxiteles’ Aphrodite to be one of the most influential sculptures of ancient times, shaping later and more famous works like the Venus de Milo. But in its own time, the perfect form and erotic beauty of the Knidos Aphrodite was legendary, drawing crowds of people each day.
According to Pliny, one man was so besotted by the Aphrodite that he purposefully remained with the statute overnight, using it for his own pleasure – and leaving his mark:
“There is a story that a man once fell in love with [the Aphrodite] and, hiding by night, embraced it, and that a stain betrays this lustful act.”