Did you know that perfume has an ancient old history? Perfume was first used in ancient Egypt hundreds of years ago. Over the years, perfume has been used in various rituals and used to have many functions other than smelling nice. It was not until the 19th century that the commercial form of perfume as we know it today emerged. In this article you can read how perfume originated.

Ancient Egypt

3300 B.C. until 320 B.C.

Perfume - as far as is known - originated in ancient Egypt and Mesopotania. A clay tablet shows how a person distills flowers, oil and a marsh plant together and makes perfume from it. The Egyptians and Greeks mainly used perfume in rituals. For example, it was used at dinner, but mainly in funeral rituals. Perfumes and ointments were used during mummification to prevent the decomposition of the deceased. In addition, perfumes were said to have a protective function against evil spirits. The Egyptians believed that gods had a specific smell and that perfumes expressed these divine characteristics.

Greeks and Romans

3000 B.C. until the 5th century

The Greeks were the first to use perfume for the daily care of the body, in addition to rituals. They used perfume in their bath or to rub their body with. The Greeks also started to trade perfume. The Romans used perfume for other purposes. They used perfume as a medicine. It was during this time that the chemist, a so-called 'quack' was born. This was because chemists did not always have a good reputation. They were often accused of selling "depraved commodities."

Middle Ages and European Court Culture

14th - 18th century

It was not until the 14th century that perfume was put into a glass bottle. The content often consisted of a combination of oil and alcohol. Cologne was invented around 1750. Western perfume culture reached a peak at the court of Louis XIV and soon became part of European court culture. The court of Louis XV was even nicknamed "the perfumed court". They sprayed perfume on their skin, clothes and furniture. In fact, legend has it that Louis XV never washed himself his entire life and only used perfume. The use of perfumes remained very popular after the French Revolution. Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, for example, was a great perfume lover. Not a day went by without being smeared from head to toe with an eau de cologne by his room attendant.

Modern Perfume industry

1900 till present

Partly due to the Industrial Revolution and the rise of modern chemistry, it became possible to produce perfume on a large scale. Its use became popular with both men and women. It was only after the Second World War when luxury fashion houses became involved that perfume became a fashion accessory for many different target groups. The fragrance Chanel No. 5 exemplifies the iconic status that a perfume had in this modern era. Remember Marilyn Monroe's famous quote: "What do I wear in bed? Why, Chanel No. 5 of course."

29 September 2020