What’s that smell?
Ancient Greeks smelled. Poor sanitation, proximity to animals, and infrequent baths created a challenging olfactory experience. Thousands of perfume containers in archaeological sites suggest the widespread effort to cover unpleasant smells and enhance pleasure during social events. Athens and Sparta had expelled perfumers, which allowed Egyptian imports to capture local markets. Greek literature associated the use of perfumes with the effeminate habits of barbarians but men definitely employed them in symposia due to their erotic properties. Light perfumes (rose etc.) were suitable for men while women opted for stronger choices (myrrh oil, sweet marjoram etc.) with lasting character.
Attic plastic vase in the shape of head of negro.
As seen on
National Archaeological Museum: The notable Greeks