Today, to wear a fresh and particular fragrance is the hallmark of seduction and refinement, and this practice was particularly dear even to the ancients; but what is little known is that in ancient times perfume was used to cover the odors resulting from poor personal hygiene and that the essences were used in therapeutic preparations to cure some diseases.
The author Pliny the Elder attributed the invention of the perfume to the Medes, Middle East people of magicians and scientists, and it is said, according to the tradition, that the perfume was introduced in Italy by the Etruscans. But today we know that the import centers had to be different because of the commercial importance that the colonies of Great Greece took regarding the import of exotic goods.
If, initially, to cover the odor with odorous substances could be for hygienic reasons, over time it became the subject of luxury ostentatious, as to be banned for "moral" reasons by the Romans. Economic factors banned the import of spices in the second century BC. According to the Roman moral code they were ephemeral goods and unnecessarily expensive, used in personal care of the body at the spa, in the gymnasiums and during other special occasions. Widespread was the custom, between the richest people, to throw rose petals at banquets to impress guests or, during theater performances, perfuming canopies with essence of rose water.
The use of perfume was widespread in the empire especially thanks to the glass with which were made all the containers, and, in this way, the production of industrial balm and ointment contributed to lower its production costs. Peculiarity that is still true today: the more valuable was the substance and the particular shape of the container, the more higher were the production costs. To avoid the deterioration of the glass containers they were stored inside additional metal containers and this would seem to be confirmed by the presence of malachite and azurite, substances caused by the alteration of bronze, on the outside wall of an ancient Pompeian ointment.
Pompeii was also famous for the art of the perfume. As archaeological evidence has revealed, significant was the commercial activity linked to perfumes and ointment exported to distant countries. In the excavations of 1750 were found numerous accounts of the use and manufacture of perfumes in the Vesuvian area, so that these activities were imprinted on some paintings of the House of the Vettii. In the fresco wall of this house are depicted some cupids while doing activities such as the preparation of perfumes, the maceration of the essences and the sale of the final product to the public.
Today, for further studies of form and content, archaeologists tend to not empty the containers, thus allowing you to discover curiosities of activity still little known as the art of perfume in the Vesuvian cities.
Come see with your eyes how beautiful Pompeii is and book a time-traveling tour through ancient Pompeii with us!
Staff at Flashback Journey to Pompeii. Our goal is to bring you up-to-date information on events, continuing archeological excavations and more on Pompeii.