The idea of the physical beauty of the human form has evolved gradually over time. Scholars like Plato and Plotinus found the concept of Roman beauty indistinguishable from that of ‘good’. Aristotle conceded that they often existed together, but clearly differentiated between the two. He treated beauty as an attribute of art and nature.
Ancient Roman Beauty
The concept of human beauty which was developed in ancient Rome and Greece persists even today. The emphasis is on symmetrical features. Certain elements of Roman beauty like fair complexion, large eyes, blond hair and an hourglass figure of women were fundamental in the concept of Roman beauty.
A number of wealthy Roman women use exotic cosmetics to enhance their appearance. They were also concerned with aging and tried to disguise it. The use of cosmetics did not find favor in the male eye. It was often regarded as deceitful.
For example, it was an offense for the vestal virgins to apply cosmetics. Despite this view, cosmetics continued to be used. Wealthy ladies had special slaves called cosmetic to apply cosmetics and dress the hair. As a cheaper imitation of the exotic cosmetics became available in the market, they began to be used more by ordinary women also.
Here are some common beauty concerns of the Roman period.
1.Care of teeth was important. A crude form of toothpaste was made from volcanic ashes and other ingredients used for cooking. False teeth were prized items.
2.Fair complexion was prized. The women took special care to protect their skin from the sun. Chalk powder was used to whiten the skin.
3.Cosmetics were imported from Germany, Gaul, and China. So they were very expensive.
4.Women generally carried a cosmetic box with them as the cosmetics needed to be applied several times a day.
5.The dried red wine was used as a blusher.
6.Lips were painted with the juice of red currants.
7.Kohl was used to beautifying the eyes. It was imported from the east and sometimes mixed with a little saffron to obtain a better smell. It was applied with small rounded sticks.
8.A number of procedures were involved in hair care. Ingredients like eggs, olive oil, henna, vinegar, lye and red wine were used to condition and color the hair.
9.Pumice stones were used for scrubbing rough skins and to remove excess hair from legs and arms.
10. Romans used a vast variety of things to prepare their cosmetics. A number of plant products, fruits, nuts, vegetables, metallic powder, animal products like skin, horn, and excrements were used.
11.The fragrance was very important to the ancient Romans. A clean and sweet smelling woman was presumed to be healthy. Perfumes were made from crushed flowers and seeds and used in copious quantities.