Laconia is a region in the southeastern Pelopponese, the capital of which was Sparta. The decoration of this alabastron is typical of Laconia, and it is the added red lines which mean it must fall within the 6th century BC. Laconian production was limited, but the wares can still be found in excavations throughout the Greco-italic world.
The ancient Greeks understood the importance of cleanliness in remaining healthy. They encouraged regular visits to the gymnasium and bath house, which doubled as a centre for socialising and entertainment. Before entering the baths, the Greeks would cleanse themselves by rubbing their wet bodies with pumice and ash, followed by olive oil, before removing the mixture with a special scraper known as a strigil. At this point they could enter the series of heated rooms and pools of water. The steam room (laconia) was heated by underfloor fires or by placing heated rocks in a large tray in the centre of the room, over which they would ladle water to create steam. Sometimes essential oils of bay, pine or juniper would be infused with the steam for their therapeutic characteristics. The process of sweating was enhanced by rubbing the body with oil. Once clean and dry, the Greeks applied perfumed oils and unguents to their skin.
Perfume pots of any shape have two things in common: they are compact in size and have a constricted mouth, which allowed the essential oils to be poured carefully. The two most common forms of pot for holding these important oils were the aryballos (pl. aryballoi) and the alabastron (pl. alabastra). The former was a small, spherical vessel with one or more handles that would be suspended from a cord or chain, carried on the wrist or hung up on a wall; evidence of this comes from scenes on figured vases showing life at the gymnasia. The alabastron was so called because of the large number that were made from cream-coloured alabaster. It was a tall, elongated vessel, without handles, but sometimes with a small pair of lugs that might be pierced with string holes.