Smelling good was of great concern to the ancient Greeks. But without running water, their techniques for freshening themselves were different than modern methods of bathing and showering. Men and women washed themselves with a cloth and a bowl of water or by rubbing olive oil on their skin, scraping it off with a metal rod called a strigil, and rinsing with cold water. Once clean, Greeks would apply perfumes all over their skin and hair.

To make perfume Greeks soaked spices and other fragrant flowers and herbs in warm oil until the oil took on a pleasant scent. They would then strain the ingredients from the oil and use the perfumed oil alone or mix it with a sticky gum to make a thicker perfumed cream. Cinnamon, basil, marjoram, almonds, roses, lavender, and lilies were popular fragrances for perfume. Greeks kept their perfume in beautifully decorated glass or ceramic bottles or carved alabaster vials hung as pendants from chains around their necks.


Crosher, Judith. Technology in the Time of Ancient Greece. Austin, TX: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1998.

Symons, David J. Costume of Ancient Greece. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.

Also read article about Perfume from Wikipedia

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