oil me up Scotty*

Back in ancient Greece, it was customary for the very rich to coat their hair with butter. It kept down vermin and helped preserve order in an elaborate hair-do. In many societies, including ancient Egypt and modern Ethiopia, a lump of fatty incense or perfumed butter was placed on the head at dinner parties and allowed to melt and drizzle voluptuously down one’s face and body.

learn about melting hair here

In Rome there were professional anointers who offered massage for a fee in the gymnasia and public baths. Every athlete who took his sport seriously had two trainers: a gymnastic master for physical training and an anointer who advised him about diet, gave him medical check ups and prescribed oil rubs.

Gymnasia y Esgrima found here

Before wrestling naked, one first did a few warm up exercises to open the pores, then poured on oil and rubbed it in. Next one sprinkled oneself from head to foot with sand or dust, which stuck to the oil and provided a kind of protective second skin. This prevented the body from being too slippery for one’s opponent to grasp; in addition the oil and sand were thought to keep the body temperature constant and ward off colds.

image found here

After exercise, one was rinsed and scraped with an iron tool called a strigil, with more oil to soften the instrument’s abrasiveness. After a bath in water and lye made from wood ash or lime, or a rubbing with Fuller’s Earth to remove any remaining sweat, sand and grease, one was ready for yet another generous application of oil.

The poet Martial, complaining about the young men of his day who refused to do any work, said they spent “most of their lives in oil” meaning that sport and luxurious massages were all they cared for.

Turkish Oil Wrestlers found here

*information found in Margaret Visser’s interesting book “Much Depends on Dinner – The Extraordinary History and Mythology, Allure and Obsessions, Perils and Taboos of an Ordinary Meal”.