Fashion has always been obsessed with mythology. Whether it’s Medusa on the Versace logo, or Gucci’s Dionysus handbag, brands continually lift inspiration from mythological figures—be it Hermes or Nike. Even in 2023, the crossover between fashion and mythology is still going strong.
Now, the focus is on mythology, which is seeing buzz in the tattoo world. Greek gods and goddesses have been among the most popular tattoo styles this summer, according to tattoo artist Kiljun Chung (who goes by the moniker @kiljun on Instagram). Whether it’s an entire leg covered in a Greek tragedy, or Medusa on your arm, these regal tattoos always spark a conversation.
“When it comes to Greek statues, there is a sense of holiness and a pureness to convey a sense of nobility,” he said. “The beauty of mythology tattoos lies in the fact that they are timeless.”
Mythology has always ranked high on the list of timeless tattoo art. On TikTok, Greek mythology tattoos have garnered over 35 million views, whether it’s tattoo ideas or the stories behind them. After all, mythology is among the oldest ways to tell stories around love and war, depicting portraits of beauty, while being packed with wisdom. While every interpretation varies, some classic proverbs prevail.
Chung, an award-winning tattoo artist and founder of Seoul Ink Tattoo studio, likes to take cues from trends, but keeps his art classic. His aesthetic is marked with high contrast figures, texture, dramatic shading, and bold lines. Whether it’s Ares or Athena, Chung inks these mythological tattoos in chiseled form. His shaded style makes them look like they are marble statues in museums.
He first started tattooing in 2007, working in Virginia before returning to Seoul in 2011. Having won over a dozen tattoo awards at conventions in Fort Bragg, San Antonio and Salt Lake City, Chung is primarily known for inking K-pop stars, like 2PM, as well as punk band No Brain, and South Korean rapper, Yoon Mi-rae. Over a decade ago, he started out doing color tattoos, but now, he works primarily in black, grey and white.
This summer alone, Chung has tattooed Zeus, the the god of the sky and thunder. He has also inked a muscular Hercules, a demi-god, and the son of Zeus. Portraits of Athena, the goddess of war, and Pluto, the god of the underworld, have also been popular this summer, he says. Chung has also tattooed Hades, Dike, Phosphorus and Plato, among others.
Many of these tattoos represent strength and power, and the people who get these tattoos are experiencing their own personal challenges. It’s also the bona fide tattoo for history buffs. “It’s truly for people who have a love of ancient culture,” said Chung
One of the most popular tattoos of 2023 has been Atlas, the Titan who held the heavens on his shoulders (represented by a celestial globe, which looks like the earth). Another popular one is tattoos of Medusa, the femme fatale, who went viral on TikTok as a symbol of strength for sexual abuse survivors.
To Chung, mythology is more than just a symbol. “One of my favorite myths is about Prometheus, the god of fire,” he said. “The everlasting conflict between man and god is something that can be depicted in my art.”
Chung comes from a fine art background, so it was a natural extension for him to ink Greek gods. He has inked tattoos based on famous artworks, like “The Nature” by Alphonse Mucha, from 1900, to various Archangel Michael figures based on historic paintings.
He thinks the interest in classic mythology tattoos will continue to thrive through to next year. “Mythology tattoos are not something that follows a trend,” said Chung.
“There are always people who look for this style. I truly think that there is beauty in the fact that Greek mythology has various interpretations. It has a charm that doesn’t change over time.”