Back to all articles

The History of Perfume

Perfume has been around for thousands of years, and throughout those years it has been many things – a way to communicate with the gods, a way to seduce a lover, even a way to display wealth! Ancient Greeks used perfume in religious ceremonies, while Romans indulged in the luxury of expensive perfumes. Legend has it that Cleopatra even coated the sails of her ship with fragrant oils before setting sail to meet with Marc Antony in hopes of seducing him with her scent before she even physically arrived! King Louis XIV, like many of his contemporaries, was terrified of bathing (there was a notion at the time that water conveyed disease), so he utilized perfume heavily on his person and throughout the halls of Versailles. But it wasn’t until the late 19th century, when synthetic ingredients were created, that modern perfumery was born. Famous names in perfume like Coty and Guerlain made their debut around this time. Then in the 1920s, Coco Chanel created her iconic Chanel No. 5 perfume. But perfume wasn’t really worn as an everyday pleasure until the 1950s in America, when Estée Lauder started the trend. Today, perfume continues to be a product that means different things to different people – an everyday self-expressive statement, a soothing scent, a luxury item, or a tool of seduction.

Share this article

card showing the history of rocking chairs

Your go-to guide for weird history facts

Subscribe to the FREE daily email that makes learning about history fun.