History of Perfume

By: Hella Goode

Perfumes have been around since the development of recreation and civilization and not just the mere search for food, sex, and shelter. And, thank goodness, we took the time do take care of our odor needs. Over the centuries people have made taking a bath a more frequent activity, but this was not always the case. Imagine au natural smelling au natural….it wouldn’t likely smell pretty.

Surprisingly, it is not the French who began the perfume industry. Perfume, in its most basic form-incense and other natural fragrances have been used since and before Biblical times. Frankincense was even brought to baby Jesus, for Christ’s sake. Since ancient time in the Americas, native cultures have used the fragrant smoke of different herbs and wood to wash and perfume the souls of others.

However, it might surprise you that the Egyptians were the real perfume freaks, even entombing their dead with perfume ready for the afterlife. They used a wide variety of scents, mostly from oils and used decorative bottles to encase them. The Romans picked up on the perfuming habit through their visits to Egypt and brought their discovery back to Europe where it became custom for both Romans and Greeks. They used them both before and after baths. Through trade, war, and recreational travel, the use of perfume spread, wafting behind travelers. Then, an Arab chemist, who caught wind of the new fad, developed a distillation technique for extracting oils from plants and did it so well, that many still use his techniques today.

The French did get hold of perfumes, as we well know, and went a bit crazy with them, especially amongst the upper class. With Louis XV, perfumes were even used on clothing. The French were so crazy about perfumes that they incorporated these scents into their culture and maintain their reputation as one of the world’s top perfume industry leaders.

Today celebrities have taken over the perfume market. Some have done it well and others have just watered down another form of art. For me, just like any other taste (or do I mean smell), it really is what the nose knows.

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