Frankincense derive from the latin verb incendere (to burn), but the present meaning can already be found during antiquity in ecclesiastical latin. This aromatic resin extracted from the Boswellia tree had different uses, mainly as religious act of devotion to God or other rituals. ting with the deities, feed them or ask them for forgiveness.
A very expensive and luxurious product, elites and clerics’s prerogative, the frankincense was imported from south Arabic Peninsula.
How they turned into today’s home fragrances, so sophisticated and elegant?
Romans loved to refresh the air with flowers, lilies, narcissus and roses and strew furnitures with scented water, vervain and lemon. The house entrance was perfumed by aromatic oil, marking the transition between public and private sphere. Bedrooms too were decorated with fragrant garlands and clothes were sheltered by dried herbes.
Recreating the old olfactory
Alongside the archaeological reconstruction, let’s picture ourselves in a Pompeii’s bedroom, with its colorful frescoes and the prickly and sweet Kyphi’s aroma, surrounded by flavours, sensations, sounds and scents of the Ancient World.
Where did they all come from?
The Incense Route
The main incenses’s commercial route was controlled by arabian people, who carried frankincense and myrrh with camel caravans. Trades from south arabian peninsula to Mediterranean expanded between III century B.C. and II century A.D. and it was crucial for Yemen and Somalia’s economy. During trade’s peak, up to 3000 tonnes of incense could be shipped and the journey, quite challenging, via cities, oasis and fortresses lasted 62 days.
The historical importance of perfumes trade in the progress of a such wide territory, from the western roman empire to Yemen, from Palestine to Somalia, from Petra to Rome, it’s immeasurable. This commerce has sustained populations in their consolidation, has caused wars and has generated huge prosperity.
After a long journey through time, lasted thousands years, let's find out how Venice has become the capital of perfume.