Perfume advances along with the human being and accompanies him throughout his history. After perfumes in Ancient Egypt, this time we are going to delve into the history of perfume in Ancient Greece, we will discover how they used fragrances and how they influenced their manufacture and distribution in Europe.
Origin of perfume in ancient Greece
The development of perfumery in Greece was originally in Crete and other colonies. Perfumers from these countries settled in Greek cities and the population soon learned this art, becoming experts in the production of perfumes and ointments, and then exported them to Europe.
The Greeks considered scents to have magical, mystical and erotic attributes. They even linked the divinity, since they represented beauty, aesthetics and harmony.
According to tradition, it was the gods who created perfumes, according to Greek mythology, it is said that the first aroma was that of the rose and was born from the hand of Venus, goddess of love, who pricked herself with the thorn of a rose, it was white and odorless. He stained her with his blood turning her red, then Cupid, seeing her so beautiful, kissed her, giving her a pleasant aroma.
In the 4th century BC, the palestras and gyms where Greek sports were developed had special facilities for personal hygiene, where there were a large number of fragrances of different aromas, such as colored talc, oils, resins, incenses, creams , etc.
Before each sport session, the gymnasts applied oils and powders to their skin. The art of this civilization was also reflected in the utensils that contained the aromas, decorated with beautiful paintings and made with expensive materials.
They used the perfumes after bathing, before a meal or special events, they also thought that by perfuming they would drive away evil spirits, they smeared a large amount of oils on the body, even the deceased were perfumed before burying them and in their grave they placed a bottle of perfume.
The Greeks also used perfumes to create hair dyes and makeup, although most were black and blue for the eyes and crimson for the cheeks. They also considered perfumes to have healing properties.
Aromas for every part of the body
The Hellenic civilization used a different fragrance for clothes, homes, even for each part of the body. Marjoram for the hair, palm oil for the chest, peppermint for the arms, thyme for the knees, oregano oil for the feet, etc.
No family feast took place without the anointing rite, which consisted of smearing the bodies with aromas to purify them.
The aromas most used by the Greeks are: myrrh, mint, marjoram, thyme, oregano, myrtle and almond blossom. Each with a divine origin.
The Greeks are believed to have been the first to create liquid perfumes. The process of making scented oils was carried out by a group of artisans called “myrepsós”, who scrupulously mixed the original herb or spice with olive oil, then condensed the essences by means of a boiling system similar to a water bath. .
So they began to create containers to store and transport them. They were packaged in unique containers of lead, silver, gold and more usually alabaster, since the latter resisted oxidation.
We have already talked about perfumes in Egypt, where perfumes were kept in alabaster vessels, (Alabastra a city of ancient Egypt). The Greeks took advantage of the properties of this marble-like, translucent and waxy-gloss plaster to preserve the oils and perfumes without losing their qualities, all with the decoration typical of their culture.
They decorated them with geometric motifs, fantastic animals, mythological or everyday scenes, in all black or red, depending on the time.
Later, when they evolved, they began to be decorated with new motifs such as animals, busts of divinities, mermaids, etc.
A little history
It is known that Alexander the Great loved perfumes and was known because he always smelled good, and he could perfume every place he entered. Alexander would end up surrendering to the power of perfumes, to the point that, in his memoirs, Aristoxeno spoke of the soft smell of Magno’s body that permeated his clothes and even his breath.
It is said that Alexander, still young and inexperienced, was reprimanded by his tutor Leonidas for throwing a large quantity of incense on the flames. Plutarco relates that Leonidas asked him if he intended to waste all the wealth of the conquered lands in this way. Alexander did not feel able to answer and simply accepted the scolding of his teacher, but later, not so young, and after many conquests, he sent a gift to Leonidas, which consisted of eleven tons of frankincense and myrrh. Said perfume of gods and the gigantic quantity of the present, assured Leonidas eternal salvation.
It is something normal that in the polis of Athens, the social status of perfumers was very high, and they even opposed the direction of fashion and elegance, which is why their stores were very visited. This attitude was criticized by Socrates himself, who even spoke of the damage that perfumes can cause, “since, when both are perfumed, it is not possible to distinguish a free man from a slave.” Some prohibitive laws on the use of fragrances were even enacted.
However, these criticisms failed to stop the rise of perfume in a civilization that soon became an expert in the use of the most distinguished aromatic essences. There are many documents from ancient Greece that prove this.
Ancient Greece has a great and important history with fragrances, which is why some brands such as Versace and Paco Rabanne are inspired by this time to design their perfumes.
Get to know the complete line of these and other brands at www.icyfragrance.com