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The word sapo, Latin for soap, first appears in Pliny the Elder's Historia Naturalis, which discusses the manufacture of soap from tallow and ashes, but the only use he mentions for it is as a pomade for hair; he mentions rather disapprovingly that the men of the Gauls and Germans were more likely to use it than their female counterparts.The Romans' preferred method of cleaning the body was to massage oil into the skin and then scrape away both the oil and any dirt with a strigil. A popular belief claims soap takes its name from a supposed Mount Sapo, where animal sacrifices were supposed to have taken place; tallow from these sacrifices would then have mixed with ashes from fires associated with these sacrifices and with water to produce soap, but there is no evidence of a Mount Sapo in the Roman world and no evidence for the apocryphal story.The use of soap for personal cleanliness became increasingly common in the 2nd century A. According to Galen, the best soaps were Germanic, and soaps from Gaul were second best. Hard toilet soap with a pleasant smell was produced in the Middle East during the Islamic Golden Age, when soap-making became an established industry.Recipes for soap-making are described by Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi (854–925), who also gave a recipe for producing glycerine from olive oil.Tallow, i.e., rendered beef fat, is the most available triglyceride from animals. Typical vegetable oils used in soap making are palm oil, coconut oil, olive oil, and laurel oil.Each species offers quite different fatty acid content and hence, results in soaps of distinct feel. Soap made from pure olive oil is sometimes called Castile soap or Marseille soap, and is reputed for being extra mild.Such soaps are also used as thickeners to increase the viscosity of oils.
Egyptian documents mention a soap-like substance was used in the preparation of wool for weaving.
The Latin word sapo simply means "soap"; it was likely borrowed from an early Germanic language and is cognate with Latin sebum, "tallow", which appears in Pliny the Elder's account.
Roman animal sacrifices usually burned only the bones and inedible entrails of the sacrificed animals; edible meat and fat from the sacrifices were taken by the humans rather than the gods.
Anything that is soluble will be washed away with the water.
The type of alkali metal used determines the kind of soap product.
The glycerin, a useful byproduct, can remain in the soap product as a softening agent, or be isolated for other uses.