Posted: July 1, 2019
Yiannoula Lazarou tends a fire on the island of Cyprus. What is she boiling? Perfume! And that strange pot she’s using looks just like ones that were used before Jesus was born . . . five thousand years before He was born!
Cyprus is a country in the Mediterranean Sea. In ancient times, people believed the made-up Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, was born there. But even before that, Cyprus became famous for its perfume. Legend says even mighty queens of Egypt prized the island’s scents.
What made Cyprus perfume stand out to the nose? Ancient perfumers used excellent, rich olive oil. They mixed it with native Cyprus plants such as oakmoss, bergamot, and labdanum. Do you recognize any of those scents? Oakmoss smells like a forest. Bergamot smells like Earl Grey tea. (It should! Earl Grey gets its scent from bergamot.) Labdanum smells sweet and leathery. Wouldn’t you love to get your own clay pot and start mixing?
Now you can—if you happen to be in Cyprus. A new perfume theme park opens in Cyprus’s Solea Valley. Visitors use replicas of ancient clay distillers. (An old-fashioned perfume distiller works like this: Herbs boil at the bottom. Steam rises to the domed top. There, it condenses into a liquid. The liquid flows through a bamboo reed into vases.) The visitors recreate ancient perfumes the traditional way. The distillers extract the scents from the locally-grown herbs over an open fire.
Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel. ― Proverbs 27:9
Today, a lot of famous perfume comes from the country of France. But people believe perfumery started long before France existed, back around 5,000 B.C. in ancient Mesopotamia. Archaeologists have dug up evidence of perfume-making going on there near the city of Mosul in modern-day Iraq. From there, perfume-making migrated to Anatolia (much of Turkey today). After that, it moved to the Mediterranean and beyond. People have discovered old perfumeries from Sardinia to Slovakia!
But Cyprus and perfume have a strong bond. For thousands of years, Cypriots—people from Cyprus—produced perfumes. They wore them too. Rich or poor, Cypriots smelled good!