Beauty is not a new concept or daily preoccupation in people’s lives. Ancient Greeks gave great importance to their appearance, which comes in agreement with their holistic view about life: They loved themselves, their guests, their gods, their country, nature overall, and their exterior. There should be harmony between body and soul. Those who praised perfection deified corporal beauty in the face of Aphrodite,( goddess of beauty and love), a beauty standard to this day. The persistence over perfection, along with its expression in the statues’ ideal body analogies birthed the concept of the golden ratio, the right balance.
According to that concept, if you measure the distance from the top of the head to the floor and divide it with the distance from the belly button to the floor, the exact same number, number Φ (Fe), comes up. Fe expresses the golden ratio, that is, the ideal human body analogies. Ancient Greeks believed that only a god could have created the world with such harmony and mastery.
For ancient Greeks, taking care of the body as well as the skin was not a show of respect toward the gods, but toward the people themselves. And it was not limited to women; it was necessary for the men too to be clean and look good, so bathing was an important activity in their daily habits. In fact, during the Hellenistic times, elaborate bathing rooms were constructed, which they visited multiple times in a day, after work and before dinner.
As Athenaeus mentions, they would rub themselves with oily aromatic substances or be rubbed and massaged by professional practitioners. And many women had entire labs for beauty and body care in their chambers where you could find mirrors, hairclips, broaches, perfumes, and creams. They’d take care of their skin, put makeup on their face, paint their lips and eyelids, wear their hair in elaborate ways, mind the pieces of clothing they wore and put on a variety of jewelry. Both the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations had unguent factories, where cosmetic products, ointments, and perfumes were fabricated.
Asclepeions constituted the antiquity’s spa and wellness centers. They were the first such constructions of western civilization. There, a combination of physical and psychological treatment was provided. The patients were treated holistically, as all their characteristics – social, moral, physical, emotional, spiritual, mental – were taken into consideration. In all Asclepeions, the main therapeutic practice was hypnosis, a sort of temporary symbolic death. That initiatory sleep took place next to running water. During the dreaming phase, the initiated witnessed significant experiences and came back rejuvenated, almost reborn.
Overall, beauty was an important part of the ancient Greeks’ daily reality. Yet, it wasn’t seen as a separate thing, but rather as an integral part of a person’s wellness and care of the self. Admittedly, that’s the way we should deal with our exterior to this day and take care of all the sectors in our life at the same time. Sadly, the current magazine-looking social-media culture doesn’t help…
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