Tomorrow : The official opening of the New Acropolis Museum.

The history of perfume in Greece is both important and dramatic. There are many stories and fables about how perfume came into existence in ancient Greece. Through Greek mythology there are tales of how the goddesses gave beautiful scent to the natural world. Venus, for example, is said to given the myrtle bush the fragrance it has today. The myrtle supposedly hid Venus from the view of satyrs when she was bathing at the edge of a lake one day. Venus was so thankful to the bush that she awarded it the scent is now has.

Another story tells of Esmina being turned into a tree for committing a great sin. Esmina cried over her punishment and the goddesses felt sorry for her. They decided to be lenient and reduce the punishment. Esmina was still to be a tree, but a sweet smelling tree, the myrrh. This particular tree "cries" and produces an aromatic resin, supposedly the tears of Esmina, which is still used in the manufacture of incense and perfumes today.

Probably the greatest story in Greek mythology concerning perfume is the story of Venus and the rose. The rose is said to have originally been white and without any scent at all, until Venus was pricked by the thorn from a rosebush. The goddess dyed the rose with her blood, making it red. The story goes that Cupid then fell in love with the flower and kissed it, giving the rose the aroma of love.

Myths and legends aside, perfume has always been important in Greek culture. It was originally made by boiling the petals of flowers, although other ingredients were soon used, such as herbs and oils, which were imported from Arabia. An an
cient Greek lady named Lais of Corinth, who was extremely wealthy, created her own perfume. She may have been the first to develop a perfume in this way in ancient Greece and although she listed the ingredients as being only orange blossom and oyster shells, the perfume has never been successfully duplicated.

However, not everyone in ancient Greece was a fan of perfume. The expense of importing oils from Arabia saw some try to get the use of perfume banned. Socrates was also quite critical of the use of perfume, especially amongst men, saying that it made free men smell the same as a slave.

But once it had begun, the peoples' love of perfume couldn't be stopped. It seemed everyone was using it and even the lowest wanted to get in on the act. A man who lived in squalor, some say even living in a barrel, Diogenes, reportedly perfumed his feet in order to breathe in the scent as it rose from the ground. A desire for perfume was spreading and the need to produce it and market it would only become more urgent as time went on.

Today perfume is widely used the world over and arguably no more so in Greece than anywhere else. Greek perfume does still have something that other perfumes don't, of course, and that is the universal name of love. The goddess of love. Aphrodite. The goddess Aphrodite does have a perfume named after her, sold with the qualities of passion and sensuality, and today we are encouraged to believe that through the use of perfumes and other cosmetics any woman can be a goddess. There's also a Greek perfume named after
the goddess Venus, so consumers can choose the kind of goddess they would rather be, or choose the perfume to suit their own personalities.

So any woman can be a goddess. True. Any woman will smell like a goddess when she uses a good perfume, and she will inevitably feel more like a goddess.

The legacy the ancient Greeks left us through their love of fragrances and beauty, even down to the delicately carved bottles they kept their perfumes in, has sur
ely shaped the importance we place on scent today.

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