The History of Perfume

the-sphinx-at-gizacairo-in-egypt-with-the-pyramid-of-chephren-khafre-in-the-backgroundPerfume originates from the old Egypt. Egyptians brought fragrance offerings to the gods by burning herb- and flower sprigs. The belief was that the gods would be pleased and would bring no harm.
Later on the scents were processed with all kinds of oils. Egyptians mummified and embalmed important and senior people. They used Myrrh and Cassia, a kind of cinnamon. Senior people would get fragrances in their graves for their afterlife.

In 1922 this was discovered by archaeologists when opening the tomb of Tutankhamun. He had been embalmed and mummified; there were also several oil jugs in his tomb.

Perfume was introduced in Greece by the Phoenicians. They dominated the Mediterranean area after the Egyptians. Some techniques were changed. They invented water based perfume. Sales collapsed and people stopped making perfume.

In the twelfth century BC sales picked up again as people became richer and so perfume production started again. In those days perfume was stored in waterproof boxes, which was a rather clumsy way of storing and so the Greek introduced glass bottles.


The Greek used excessive amounts of perfume and used different scents for different body parts.
In the year 640 BC the politician and poet Solon decided that people used too much perfume and issued an edict on the sale of perfume. This failed and perfume remained the most popular product sold.

The Romans developed an interest in perfume pretty quickly. At the start of the Roman Empire perfume was used only during religious activities and funerals of important people.
Emperor Nero used enormous quantities of perfume. During the year of the death of his lover he used more incense than the complete annual production of the whole of the Arab world. The Romans created a lot of new scents. They indulged in scents. Floors and walls would be sprinkled, horses and dogs would be massaged with perfume and during festivities for important people fountains would spray scented water.


In the Middle East region, the use of perfume was stopped by the emergence of Christianity, both in religious- as well as in daily life. Still the Arabs continued using it.

alambiekDuring the tenth century the Alembic was invented allowing for improved distillation techniques. The Spanish and the crusaders brought the perfume back to Europe. When Catherine de Medici left Italy in the 16th century to marry the French crown prince, everybody wanted perfumed leather gloves. This was the starting point of the  perfume industry. The best glove perfumers came from Grasse in France and so Grasse became a leading perfume centre which it still is. This was the beginning of a long perfume history, which started with a dozen scents. Now there are thousands.



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