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Pompeii is said to have been a place of pleasures; strong indications of this are shown in the art and artefacts that have been unearthed from the buried remains of the city.
Gardens played a dominant part in the Pompeiian way of life. As well as elaborate styles of gardens of the rich, those with smaller houses also had gardens which were used to grow a large variety of flowers and herbs for medicinal and culinary purposes, as well as for ornamental purposes. The soil around Pompeii was rich and fertile for growing a large variety of flora and fauna.
Included in these were plants and flowers which could be used for perfumery making; perfumery making was a large part of Pompeiian society. Cheaper products could be produced using local plants, rather than those imported from more distant, exotic climes. Although it has not been discovered in literature recorded of this time, it is assumed that perfume making was evident in Pompeii as there has been evidence uncovered in the excavation of Pompeii of perfumery shops and equipment. Women had many similar beauty "products" that the modern day woman uses today in some form or another; these included creams, lotions and masks.
Plants and flowers that we know were used in Pompeii were rose, fennel, myrrh and incense. These ingredients were used together to make a perfume called Rhodinum. Another perfume called mirtum-laurum was made up of lily, laurel, myrtle, myrrh and a few other ingredients. Other perfumes which were known to be used in Pompeii were Melinon, Susinum and Iasminum. Apart from their pleasant "smells", a number of the perfumes used would also have therapeutic properties as they contained several plants and flowers that we use in aromatherapy today. In fact, it has been recorded that Pompeiians used plants such as Chamomile for therapeutic purposes, much as we use essential oils today.
Various other plants and flowers were used to make up scents for laundry, to treat ulcers and to combat sweat.
Pompeii kept these secrets for centuries until excavations began in earnest under the reign of King Charles III in the 1700s. Today, a huge part of the city has been unearthed but I suspect Pompeii still holds some secrets we have yet to re-discover…
Copyright © Sharon Falsetto 2007 - 2016 All rights reserved
- Amery, Colin, Curran Brian Jnr, ‘The Lost World of Pompeii’ 2002 Getty Publications, Los Angles, CA, USA
- Giordano, Carlo, Casale, Angelandrea ‘ Profumi, Ungenti e Acconciature in Pompei Antica’ (Perfumes, Ungents and Hairstyles in Pompeii) Bardi Editore, Roma
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By Sharon Falsetto
Gardens of Pompeii