Ancient Tales: The History of Aromatherapy

Greece & Rome

The Greeks originally learned about aromatic oils from the Egyptians. Crete had an elegant culture that lasted from 2600 to 1250 BC. Phoenician ships carried Cretan rhyton vessels to Egypt and returned with items made in Egypt, including aromatic oils.

Greeks ascribed a divine origin to all aromatic plants. Dionysus was the god of scent, flavor, wine and perfume. He bestowed blessings and scents on flowers. Cloris was the deity of flowers and Eros is an anagram for rose. At Delphi, the virgin priestesses were anointed with and bathed in oils.

The Greeks passed on their knowledge to the Romans and by the time that Ovid (43 BC-AD 17) was writing his poetry, Rome and Greece had many perfume shops selling fragrant oils. Like the Egyptians, the Greeks and Romans were also aware that the oils were beneficial. ‘The best recipe for good health is to apply sweet scents to the brain’ was generally the motto they lived by. Hippocrates (460-370 BC), known to many as the father of medicine, recommended the use of the oils to stem the spread of the plague and the streets of Athens were lined with fumigations burning oils to help clean the air and prevent contagious diseases spreading.



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