The Romans first celebrated scent around 750 B.C. in religious ceremonies to celebrate the goddess of Flora. Each year the ceremonies would be held to celebrate the first flowers of the season. Later, the ceremony was held each year on April 28, four days before May Calend.
The Romans were also known for their exotic gardens, but the flowers were mainly used for garlands worn in maidens' hair. When the Roman’s world conquest began they, as Alexander the Great before them, began to adopt the extensive use of perfume into their own culture.
In the Roman Senate House, the "world's first parliament", the Alter of Victory was sprinkled with incense before the day's commencing business. The practice of shaving also began here, and after the razor performed its duty, the face would be massaged with scented unguents.
As the Roman conquests continued, so did the extravagance of perfume in the Roman culture. In the famous Roman baths, one would be massaged with essential oils and fragrant ointments after cleansing in the warm waters.
Frankincense, myrrh and blossoms like jasmin were initially the exclusive domain of the high priests. It was thought that it was possible to communicate with the gods through the rising smoke produced by burning fragrant substances.
As the years went by, the interest in fragrant substances intensified and the ways in which they were used multiplied: fumigations, oils, balms, fermented liquors. Apart from an attempt to get closer to the gods, both rich and poor used them in the belief that fragrance glorified their beauty and their power.
Incense is still ceremoniously burned today in the Catholic Church, and this ritual presumably has the same roots.
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