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A history of perfume
Ancient Greece




Epykisis (aigui?re) - panse décorée d'une sc?ne de toilette - Argent - Monde grec - époque hellénistique (322 - 50 av. J.C.) - H. 20,5 cm

Amphorette - décor de chevrons - pâte de verre - Gr?ce - IIIe - IIe si?cles av. J.C. - H.10 cm   D. 6,1 cm


Beginning in the Creto-Mycenian period (1500 b.c.) perfumes exert a magical attraction, of both a mystical and erotic order, on the Greeks.

Held to be of divine or fabulous origin, they are essential in cult worship : after animal offerings, rare perfumed substances such as incense and myrrh are burned.

Lécythes - décors ? figures noires : Dionysos entre deux satyres ; palmettes - terre cuite - Gr?ce - fin Ve si?cle av. J.C. - H 15 cm, 11 cm et 10 cm

Aryballe-couronne - décor animalier peint - terre cuite - Corinthe - VIIe - VIe si?cles av. J.C. - H. 9 cm   D. 8 cm

In the same way, birth, marriage, and death are accompanied by perfumed fumigations and ointments with purifying virtues. Perfumes play a major role during funerals, for they favor the journey into the beyond. The dead are burned wrapped in perfumed shrouds or buried with precious receptacles : lekuthos, aryballes, alabasters,... and sweet smelling plants such as roses, lilies, violets, undoubtedly symbols of eternal life.



Aryballe en forme de t?te casquée - terre cuite ? vernis noir - Rhodes - VIe si?cle av. J.C. - H. 5,8 cm

Flacon représentant Mithra sacrifiant le taureau - terre cuite - Gr?ce orientale - IVe - IIIe si?cles av. J.C. - H. 11,9 cm   L. 12,3 cm

In addition to these rituals, the Greeks worship bodily hygiene and physical beauty. Hippocrate thus recommends sage, mauve, or cumin, based remedies...administered in the form of fumigations, rub-downs, and baths. Following their ablutions at the public baths -places for socializing- men and women perfume their bodies with iris and marjoram oils... During banquets, the guests' feet are washed as a sign of hospitality, after which they are offered wreaths of flowers, perfumed wines, and rose-scented or clove-oil ointments.

In the stadium, athletes smear their bodies with oil which they remove afterwards with strigiles, while women adorn and embellish themselves in the Gynaeceums.



In the 4th century b.c. the Greeks adopt heavy scents like incense and myrrh, once reserved for the gods, benzoin, cinnamon , sandalwood ,... as well as animal substances such as, castoreum, musk ,civet , gray amber considered impure until then.



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Aryballe - décor peint - terre cuite - Corinthe - VIe si?cle av. J.C. - H. 8 cm   D. 7,5 cm - Dépôt du Musée du Louvre, Paris

Aryballe piriforme - décor en écailles peint - terre cuite - Corinthe - VIIe -VIe si?cles av. J.C. - H. 5,6 cm - Dépôt du Musée du Louvre, Paris

Flacons - terre cuite - Chypre - 1600 - 1400 av J.C. - H. 15,5 cm ; 12,6 cm ; 11,3 cm

Aryballe - terre cuite émaillée verte - Rhodes - VIe si?cle av. J.C. - H. 5,1 cm   D. 5,2 cm - Dépôt du Musée du Louvre, Paris

Greek craftsmen manufacture series of spun ceramic containers whose shapes adapt to the perfumed substances they contain. Two examples are the lekuthos for fluid substances and the aryballes for oils.



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Plastics vases

Aryballe en forme de li?vre - décor peint - terre cuite - Corinthe - VIe si?cle av. J.C. - H. 6,3 cm

Aryballe en forme de poisson - décor peint et incisé - terre cuite - Corinthe - VIe si?cle av. J.C. - H. 4,7 cm

Aryballe en forme de hérisson - terre cuite émaillée -Rhodes - VIe si?cle av. J.C. - H. 5 cm

Aryballe en forme de t?te casquée - terre cuite - Rhodes - VIe si?cle av. J.C. - H. 5,7 cm


The 6th century b.c. is marked by the invention of small vases in molded ceramic known as "plastics". Originally shaped, they represent human heads, animals, etc...


vers Une histoire de la parfumerie



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