Speed dating or online matchmaking-these may be the latest romantic trends, but the artistry of love is ancient and the desire for beauty is something altogether primitive. Searching for a mate or attempting to seduce a partner was once the work of potions and charms, animal sacrifices and amulets. While many of the old rituals may seem wildly out of step for contemporary women, there are many ancient practices that may very well initiate attraction and captivate a partner today.
Asses’ milk is not a hot commodity in the present era, but once upon the time it was an elixir by which to preserve youth and beauty. Cleopatra is believed to have placed great store in asses’ milk and was known to bathe in it not only for beauty’s sake, but because it seemed to have aphrodisiac properties. Doctors of antiquity such as Hippocrates prescribed asses’ milk to treat poisonings, nose bleeds, and infectious diseases. Asses’s milk was also the preferred nourishment for nursing infants until the twentieth century. Considered closer to breast milk than that of any other animal, it was later given to infants in delicate health because it seemed to sustain them better in many cases. With its characteristic sweet taste, asses’ milk is more commonly used in France, Italy, and parts of Spain, but its health and beauty secrets can be traced back to ancient times.
History also reports that Cleopatra added salt from the Dead Sea to her bath. This is not a far-fetched tale since ancient women in this region were known to use salt and minerals from the Dead Sea medicinally and for overall health. Today’s mineral cosmetic industry, for example, owes much to the Dead Sea cosmetic practices of antiquity. It was believed that salt from the Dead Sea had restorative powers. Ten times saltier than the ocean, the Dead Sea is the lowest place on Earth that occurs naturally. The extraordinary composition of its brine and truly unique composition of its waters have been said to work wonders for people suffering from various health and skin disorders. The Bible states that King Solomon gave Dead Sea salts to the Queen of Sheba as a gift. It is also said that Marc Antony presented Cleopatra with a deed for the Dead Sea region after he conquered it.
Egyptian cosmetics are nearly as old as the civilization. Everyone from the very poor to royalty used them to varying degrees and of different quality. Women, as famously denoted by Cleopatra, wore black kohl to outline their eyes. Another eyeliner variation was to use ground green malachite. In Egypt painting the eyes was a general practice and women, no matter what their status, were likely to practice the application. To shadow the eyes, studies have revealed that ancient Egyptian women would paint their eyelids with a mixture of ground serpentine (a green mineral) and water. To paint their lips, women would combine animal fat and red ochre to create a cosmetic coating. The use of cosmetics in ancient Egypt is a testament to their ideals of beauty.