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cosmetics


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Most of the aids to beauty known today were to be found in ancient times on a woman's dressing‐table; and in both Greece and Rome men paid great attention to cleanliness, applying olive oil after exercise and bathing (see baths), and scraping the limbs with strigils: dandies went further and would remove the hair from every part of their body with tweezers, pitch‐plaster, and depilatories.

Many specimens have been found of ancient cosmetic implements. Mirrors were usually made of polished copper alloy. Combs were of the tooth‐comb pattern, with one coarse and one fine row of teeth. Razors, made of bronze, were of various shapes, the handle often beautifully engraved. Safety‐pins and brooches had many forms elaborately inlaid with enamel and metal.

Cosmetics and perfumes were freely used. Athenian women attached importance to white cheeks, as a marker of status; they applied white lead, and also used an orchid‐based rouge. Roman women also had a great variety of salves, unguents, and hair‐dyes kept in a toilet box with separate compartments for powders, paints, and toothpastes. Several recipes for these commodities are given by Ovid in his mock‐didactic poem ‘Cosmetics for the Female Face’.

Greek women usually wore their hair arranged simply in braids and drawn into a knot behind; and the same style was often adopted in Rome. But under the empire a fashion arose of raising a structure of hair on the top of the head, either in a wig or painfully arranged by a lady's maid. Blondes were fashionable in Rome, and brunettes could either dye their hair or use the false hair which was freely imported from Germany.

Men in early Greece and Rome wore beards and allowed the hair of the head to grow long. From the 5th cent. bc the Greeks cut the hair of their heads short, and from the time of Alexander 2 the Great they shaved their chins. The Romans followed suit in the 3rd cent. bc, but from the time of Hadrian they again wore beards. See dress; portraiture, greek and roman.

Subjects: History.


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