Oil used as an ointment

In ancient Rome and Greece, oil was mostly used for body care: it was a common practice to douse oneself with olive oil in public bathhouses or thermae.

Two frescoes found in Pompeii and Herculaneum depict the techniques employed to prepare scented skin balms. Olives were first ground and then pressed between two planks of wood with the aid of wedges and hammers, and the oil thus obtained was poured over herbs and spices previously ground with a mortar and pestle. The essential oils extracted from these herbs blended perfectly with the olive oil, which therefore acquired a pleasant scent and was much appreciated by both ladies and men. These oils were also used for religious ceremonies, in purification rituals and funerals. Certain officinal herbs were sometimes employed to produce an ointment with medicinal property, which was used as a remedy for various diseases, infections, burns, rashes or insect bites.


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