It has been claimed that the Babylonians were making soap as early as 2800 BC, but this soap may have only been used for laundering purposes rather than for personal use.
The first Roman baths are believed to have been built around 300 BC, although soap was not normally used for personal cleaning.
Instead, the early Greeks, and later the Romans, rubbed olive oil and sand over their skin, scraped it off using an implement called a stigil, and then rubbed the skin with herbal mixtures.
Personal soap use became popular during later Roman times.
Even Cleopatra is reputed to have taken baths, and she credited her beauty to bathing in mare's milk.
According to Roman legend, soap was named after Mount Sapo, a place where animals were sacrificed.
Rainwater washed a mixture of melted animal fat (tallow) and wood ashes into the clay soil along the Tiber River and women there found this clay mixture made their washing cleaner, with less effort.
However, Mount Sapo is ficitional and the legend appears to be one of convenience.
References are made to the discovery of a soap factory complete with finished bars of soap being uncovered in the ruins of Pompeii, but this information also seems to be unsubstantiated.
The Greek physician, Galen, is said to have recommended soap for medicinal and cleaning purposes during the second century AD.