What Was Hygiene Like in Ancient Times?

Hygiene is an essential part of human life that has been practiced since ancient times. It was not until the 19th century that hygiene became a scientific discipline, but people have always been aware of the importance of cleanliness and sanitation. In this article, we will take a look at what hygiene was like in ancient times.

Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egyptians were known for their hygiene practices. They believed in the importance of cleanliness, and their personal hygiene was a reflection of their social status. They often bathed in the Nile River, which they also used for drinking water and washing clothes. Egyptian women used a mixture of natron and water as a deodorant, and men shaved their heads to avoid lice infestations.

In addition to personal hygiene, Egyptians were also concerned with public health. They built latrines outside the city walls to prevent diseases from spreading, and they used disinfectants like frankincense to purify the air.

Ancient Greece

Ancient Greeks were also known for their emphasis on personal hygiene. They bathed regularly in public baths called ‘thermae’. Greek athletes would also use olive oil to clean themselves after exercising.

However, there were some exceptions to these practices. For example, Spartan soldiers were known to avoid bathing for long periods as it was believed that dirt would make them tougher.

Ancient Rome

The Romans took hygiene very seriously, and their public baths called ‘thermae’ were famous throughout the empire. Roman citizens would bathe in hot water and then use olive oil or other oils to keep their skin moisturized.

Romans also had a sophisticated system of sewage disposal that helped prevent diseases from spreading. They built aqueducts to carry fresh water into the cities, and they had public toilets that were flushed with water.

Ancient India

In ancient India, hygiene was closely linked to religion. Hindus believed in the importance of cleanliness, both physical and spiritual. They would wash their hands and feet before entering a temple or any holy place.

Ayurveda, an ancient Indian system of medicine, also emphasized the importance of hygiene. It recommended regular bathing and brushing teeth with neem twigs to prevent tooth decay.

Ancient China

In ancient China, hygiene was also closely linked to traditional medicine. They believed in the importance of balancing the body’s energy or ‘qi’, which could be achieved through various practices like acupuncture and massage.

Chinese people also practiced personal hygiene by bathing regularly and washing their clothes. They used herbs like mint and lavender to freshen their breath and keep themselves clean.


Although hygiene practices varied across different cultures in ancient times, it is clear that people have always been aware of the importance of cleanliness for personal health and public sanitation. These practices have evolved over time as scientific knowledge has advanced, but the basic principles remain the same – regular washing, avoiding contamination, and maintaining a clean environment are essential for good health.