How Was Perfume Made in Ancient Greece?

Perfume is not just a modern luxury, but has been a part of human civilization for centuries. Ancient Greece, known for its rich cultural heritage, also had its own distinctive way of making perfumes. Let’s take a closer look at how perfume was made in Ancient Greece.

The Ingredients

Ancient Greeks used a variety of natural ingredients to create their perfumes. These included:

  • Flowers and Blossoms: Fragrant flowers like roses, jasmine, and violet were commonly used.
  • Herbs and Spices: Aromatic herbs such as mint, thyme, and basil were often added to enhance the scent.
  • Resins and Woods: Substances like frankincense and cedarwood were used to create base notes in the perfumes.
  • Animal Products: Some perfumes contained ingredients like musk (extracted from musk deer) or ambergris (a substance found in the intestines of sperm whales).

The Extraction Process

To extract the fragrant oils from these ingredients, ancient Greeks employed various methods:


Ancient Greek alchemists developed the process of distillation to extract essential oils from plants. They would heat a mixture of water and plant material in an alembic still. The steam produced would carry the aromatic compounds into a condenser where they would be collected as essential oils.


In maceration, flowers or herbs were soaked in oil or water for an extended period. This allowed the fragrance to infuse into the liquid. The resulting mixture could then be used as a perfume or further processed to extract more concentrated oils.

The Perfume-Making Process

Once the fragrant oils were extracted, the Greeks would combine them in various proportions to create different perfumes. They often used a base of olive oil or grape seed oil to dilute the concentrated oils and make them easier to apply.

Perfumes were created by blending different notes, known as top, middle, and base notes. Top notes were light and evaporated quickly, while middle notes lasted longer and gave character to the fragrance. Base notes were rich and heavy, providing depth and longevity.

Ancient Greeks believed that perfumes had therapeutic properties and could ward off evil spirits. They would wear these fragrances on their bodies or use them in religious ceremonies.

The Role of Perfume in Ancient Greek Society

In Ancient Greece, perfume had both practical and symbolic significance:

  • Personal Hygiene: Greeks used perfumes to mask body odors and maintain personal hygiene.
  • Social Status: The use of perfumes was associated with wealth and high social status. Those who could afford luxurious scents were seen as sophisticated individuals.
  • Rituals and Worship: Perfumes played an essential role in religious ceremonies and offerings to gods. The pleasing aroma was believed to please the deities.

In Conclusion

Ancient Greeks had a deep appreciation for fragrance and understood the art of perfume-making. Through their innovative methods of extraction and careful blending of ingredients, they created captivating scents that lasted through the ages. Today, we can still marvel at their olfactory achievements and continue to enjoy the enduring allure of perfumes.