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Perfume through the years

Did you know that perfume has an ancient history? Perfumes were used hundreds of years ago in ancient Egypt. Throughout the years, perfume has been used in different rituals and had all kinds of functions. It was only in the 19th century that the commercial form of perfume was created. In this article, you will read how fragrances came into being.

Ancient Egypt

3300 B.C. until 320 B.C.

Perfume - as far as is known - originated in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. A clay tablet shows how a person distilled flowers, oil and a bog plant together to make perfume. The Egyptians and Greeks used perfume mainly for rituals. For example, it was used at dinner, but mainly at funeral rituals. During mummification, perfumes and ointments were used to prevent the decomposition of the deceased. In addition, these fragrances would have a protective function against evil. The Egyptians believed that gods smoked particularly well and that these divine characteristics were expressed in perfumes.

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. They used perfume in the bath or to rub their bodies with. The Greeks also began to trade in perfume. The Romans used perfume for other purposes. They used perfume as medicine. This is when the druggist, a so-called quack, came into being. These druggists did not always have a good reputation. They were often accused of selling 'depraved merchandise'.

Middle Ages and European Court Culture

14th - 18th century

In the 14th century, perfume came in a glass bottle. The contents often consisted of a combination of oil and alcohol. Around 1750, eau de cologne was invented. Western perfume culture reached its height at the time of Louis XIV, soon becoming a 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. Legend has it that Louis XV never washed in his life and only used perfume. Even after the French Revolution, the use of perfume remained very popular. Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, for example, was a great perfume lover. Not a day went by without him being rubbed from head to toe with eau de cologne by his chambermaid.

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 among both men and women. It was only after the Second World War when luxurious fashion houses became involved that perfume became a fashion accessory for many different target groups. The fragrance Chanel No. 5 exemplifies the iconic status perfume had in this modern era. Think of Marilyn Monroe's famous statement: "What do I wear in bed? Why Chanel No. 5, of course."