Oil was extensively used in ancient times. Apart from in food and for burning in lamps, it served to anoint the body after bathing and in the ‘palaestra’, or wrestling school. Greek athletes rubbed their bodies with oil and pumice before contests and then removed the dust and sweat from the body with the aid of a curved bronze scraper called a ‘strigil’.
The most used was olive oil with the best coming from the Greek state of Attica where the olive tree was considered a gift of Athena. Scented oils were made for perfuming the dress, bath water, and for massaging into the skin, whilst pomades were made for the hair and beard. Cold or hot pressed oils from olives or nuts such as almonds, were mixed with scented flowers, grasses and other herbal aromatics and then preserved in vessels of stone, alabaster or bronze.