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Introduction


Perfume has been with us for over four millennia and in the most unexpected places, evoking memories and desires. Its history belongs to that of cultures the world over. The art of combining scents began in the Near East and then travelled further west to Greece and Rome before reaching Asia through the intermediary of Arab spice merchants. In Europe, the first Perfume-making centre was Italy during the Renaissance, before becoming established in France in the 18th century.

The word “perfume” comes from the Latin “per fumum” which literally means “through smoke”, because the first perfumes consisted of spices burned like incense to the gods or ancestors.

Wherever it was used, it fulfilled two primordial functions: religious and profane.

Its volatile nature and its ability to burn in beautiful wafts of sweet-smelling smoke make it mankind's privileged ambassador to the gods.

Perfumes and make-ups were also used for their magical and therapeutic virtues before being prized for their extreme power of seduction.

For Mesopotamians, the most revered resin was that of Lebanese cedar (Cedrus libani), which has a strong scent.

The resinous wood of pine, cypress and fir trees was also burned during public ceremonies and private worship. These types of wood have a sharp, refreshing scent that is found in an evergreen species, the myrtle, which – while it was not a conifer – was also used for its smoke.