Rome History of MakeUP
By about 300 BC, myrrh and frankincense from Yemen reached the Mediterranean by way of Persian traders. The trade routes swelled as the demand for roses, sweet flag, orris root, narcissus, saffron, mastic, oak moss, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, nutmeg, ginger, costus, spikenard, aloewood, grasses and gum resins increased. (Keville, Green) Iraqi men and women painted their faces with kohl just like the Egyptians did. This was to protect them from the ‘evil eye.' After the defeat of the Greeks by the Romans, the original Egyptian intention suffered its final bastardization beyond any reasonable recovery. The Romans were unabashedly hedonistic; Egyptian oils that were once used for sacred purposes became nothing more than sexual accoutrements in Rome. There was some dignity amended when the Romans discovered medicinal applications as well. Plagues were so rampant throughout Rome, that aromatic gums and resins were burned to repel demons and bad spirits. (Rady) It was the Romans who gave us the actual word perfume and the rest of the surviving vernacular used today. "Per" is Latin for ‘through,' and "fumum" means ‘smoke;' the release of aromatic material through burning. Combine the act of burning incense with prayer (the closest they came to spirituality) and the gods in charge of disease (and other problems) were considered appeased. (Rady)
The Roman ‘down to Earth' mentality did not embrace Greek complexity, much less Egyptian perfumery with its spiritual ramifications. The Greeks did not honor Egyptian spiritual intentions with regard to oils and perfumery and the Romans are almost completely out of context with the ‘preserving' sentiment. In Egypt, magic, religion, medicine, pharmacology, cosmetics, and chemistry was combined into one science. This once integrated system evolved into separated, independent, totally unrelated sciences by the time Rome came into power. Rome oversimplified to the point of abuse and used oils so heavily that it caused serious financial problems. When Rome became Christianized, the new priesthood perceived the unbridled indulgence in sex, and the waste of money, as a main source of sin. (Rady) By 1 AD, Rome was going through approximately 2,800 tons of imported frankincense and 550 tons of myrrh per year. In 54 AD, Emperor Nero spent the equivalent of $100,000 just to scent just one party. He had carved ivory ceilings in his dining rooms that were fitted with concealed pipes that sprayed down mists of fragrant waters on guests below. He had panels that slid to one side, to shower guests with fresh rose petals. One unfortunate guest was asphyxiated by a dense rose-petal cloud. (Keville, Green)
Perfume merchants were afforded the same status as doctors and the citizenry referred to their sweethearts as "my myrrh" and "my cinnamon," in much the same way that we say "honey" and "sweetie pie" today. Rome was in power during the biblical New Testament. One passage of scripture refers to the frankincense and myrrh that was brought to the Christ child as having greater value than gold. Another biblical episode describes Judas Iscariot complaining about Mary Magdalene's anointing of Christ's feet with a costly spikenard. Although Rome was in power, the Greek civilization had not yet demised. The Greek word for Christ, ‘Christos,' means "anointed," from the Greek word ‘chriein,' "to anoint." Citizens of both Roman and Greek cultures are prominently featured in the New Testament. Gnostic Christians from the 1st through the 4th century AD, held fragrance in high regard because their beliefs were deeply rooted in Egyptian philosophy: They sought release from the limitations of the material world and embraced the symbology of essential oils, that represent the plant's soul. It is the Roman Catholic church in the 5th century AD that is responsible for the schism that we have today.