The Scent of a Woman
Arethusa – Volume 43, Number 1, Winter 2010, pp. 87-112
The Johns Hopkins University Press
At Aeneid 1.691-94, Venus sets Ascanius down to sleep on a bed of aromatic marjoram; Servius seizes the opportunity to recount the origins of perfume. Revealing that the note is no antiquarian coincidence, this article argues that the Vergilian passage and others in Greek and Latin poetry echo, to important effect, the remarkable tradition of one of antiquity’s most famous fragrances. Along the way, an investigation of botanical and medical sources clarifies our picture of how perfume was used, explaining the vicious humor of a passage in Lucretius and suggesting a new solution to a famous interpretive crux regarding Catullus 13.