Excavations of ancient Babylon reveals evidence that Babylonians were making soap around 2800 B.C. They made soap from fats boiled with ashes. These soaps were used in cleaning wool and cotton used in textile manufacture and also used medicinally for at least 5000 years. The Ebers papyrus (Egypt, 1550 BC) reveals that the ancient Egyptians mixed animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts to produce a soap-like substance. According the Pliny the Elder, the Phoenicians used goat tallow and wood ashes to create soap in 600 BC. Early Romans made soaps in the first century A.D. and soap was widely known across the Roman Empire. The Celts made their soap from animal fat and plant ashes and they named the product saipo, from which the word soap is derived.
Aleppo soap is a handmade, hard bar soap. Aleppo soap is also known as savon d’Alep, laurel soap, Syrian soap, or ghar soap (the Syrian word for ‘laurel’). It derives its English and French names from the city of Aleppo, Syria, where it is reputed to have been made for thousands of years.
Natural and biodegradable Aleppo soap is one of the most famous beauty products of the ancients, a natural moisturizer and humectant, pure in its form (it has no synthetic preservatives, chemical additives or fragrances).
I think I’ll use Aleppo soap (also known as Laurel Soap) or Castile washballs as my stock gifts to all new members of the Order of the Laurel… it’s too corny not to, and it would be appropriate for many different cultures across the ages.
After Aleppo soap came into Europe it started revolutionizing public sanitation and personal hygiene (which was a serious problem in Middle Ages, leading to the rampant spreading of various diseases). At first production of European soap was localized to the Mediterranean area, which slowly started spreading with the arrival of “Muslim” soap makers to Spain and Italy during 12th century. It was with their dedication and inventions that organized European production came into full life, enabling Spanish cities of Malaga, Carthagene, Castile, Alicante and Italian cities of Savone, Genoa, Naples, Bologna and Venice to become soap export centers of entire Europe.
Among all those early European-made soaps, one managed to distinguish itself by its high quality and exceptional ability to clean. This was Castile soap.
Castile soap managed to establish such popularity because this Spanish city had an abundance of olive oil, crucial ingredient that was used in the production of their high quality soap. Original recipe for creation of Aleppo soap required use of laurel oil, but because this type of oil was in short supply, Castille’s easy access to olive oil that enabled creation of pure white soap that was very mild and effective. This features of Castile soap, in addition of retaining pure white composition as it aged, made it very popular initially with Spanish royalty, and later on with other royal houses of Europe. As centuries went by, Castile soap traveled over Europe, managing to enter England market during mid 1500s when it was imported in high qualities via sea.
Even now, over half millennia after it was originally created, Castile soap represents one of the best natural and bio-degradable soaps that can be manufactured by hand. It is a great soap for washing body, laundry, hair, can safely be used by children and does not loose potency with time.
SOURCE: Hidden Florence