The art of ancient perfumery in Greece

GREECEIn Greece,  perfume was already central to worshipping and pleasing of the gods and goddesses.  The Greeks believed that anything as wondrous must actually have come from the gods:  vast quantities were used in religious ceremonies, and those too poor to afford fragrance for funerals simply painted a perfume bottle on the coffin.

An entire book, ‘Concerning Odours’ – written by Theophrastus, ‘the father of botany’ – was dedicated to fragrance, its pages documenting spikenard, iris, cistus, rose, mint, myrtle, hyacinth, cinnamon and narcissus, among other perfume ingredients.

The Greeks played a crucial role in the development of perfumery.  Not content with burning fragrance ingredients, they ground aromatic plants and resins and suspended them in oil, creating the first perfumes for wearing on the skin.  And what else helped fragrance to ‘catch on’ in Ancient Greece was the new-found interest in hygiene.  (A Greek word, NB.)


Hippocrates – ‘the father of medicine’ – was big on hygiene, prescribing fumigation and the use of perfumes to help prevent disease.  The Greeks embraced aromatherapy, making it practical and scientific rather than mystical.  Both men and women became obsessed with ‘the cult of the body’:  women, at dressing tables in their private quarters (known as the ‘gynaeceum’), men more publicly, anointing themselves at the public baths, after exercise.  (A ritual that endures in today’s gym changing rooms.)


Through Alexander the Great’s conquests in the East, spices, incense and new perfume ingredients became available, traded from China, India, Africa, Arabia – as precious as gold, and in equally high demand.

Animal-based scent ingredients – musk, ambergris – were used for the first time, too, adding a a new sensuousness to fragrance creation.  (And staying power, since many animal ingredients are great fixatives).  And no longer was perfume for the exclusive enjoyment of the gods.  Fragrant blends were introduced into everyday life, worn by poets, athletes and gorgeous Grecian women – and the perfume shops which opened all over Athens, showcasing these scents, became centres of gossip, scandal and political intrigue.


Η αρωματοποιία αποτελούσε έναν κλάδο ξεχωριστό, που απαιτούσε δεξιοτεχνία, εφευρετικότητα, αλλά και την απαραίτητη μυστικότητα. Επρόκειτο για μια σπουδαία τέχνη για την οποία γράφτηκαν ποικίλα αρχαία συγγράμματα, με περιεχόμενο θεραπευτικό, καλλωπιστικό και επικουρικό.


Οι αρχαίοι διέκριναν τα αρώματα σε δύο κατηγορίες. Σε αυτά που βρίσκονταν σε υγρή κατάσταση, τα έλαια, και στα παχύρρευστα και στερεά, τις αλοιφές. Τα ρήματα που χρησιμοποιούσαν αντίστοιχα ήταν το χρίω και το αλείφω, ενώ συναντάται επίσης το ξεραλοίφειν για επάλειψη σε στεγνό και όχι υγρό σώμα. Τα αρωματικά έλαια χαρακτηρίζονται ως ευώδη.

Περισσότερα :

Η σπουδαία τέχνη της αρωματοποιίας στην αρχαία Ελλάδα και τα Μυρεψεία…/%ce%b7-%cf%83%cf%80%ce%b…/


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13 comments on “The art of ancient perfumery in Greece

  1. This a wonderfully interesting article Efi, and here I just ran out of deodorant today. And I do like to use a men’s perfume, I’ve a Versace Man, Eau Fraiche, which I like, and a David Beckham (brand), Beyond. which is also good.


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