Legend has it that soap was first discovered on Mt. Sapo on the outskirts of ancient Athens. Women washing clothes noticed that after a rain the clothing was much more easily washed clean.At first this was attributed to the Gods, but a closer look at what happened explains this phenomenon much better. Rain water drained through the ash heaps left from sacrifical altars, leached alkali out of the ashes and mixed the solution with the leftover fats from the altars. This formed a primitive soap which continued to leach into the streams surrounding the temple complex. This was the reason that the women found it easier to clean clothes near the temples.
Well, time passed on, and we learned how to make soap by deliberately pouring water over hardwood ashes to make a strong alkali solution. This potash soap was soft, but serviceable. In the Castille region of France and Spain, Olive oil was used with the alkali to make the first hard bars of soap. This soap was treasured by the rich and royalty of the period, and was given as gifts along with books, salt and gold. My, how times change, well, we still value gold!!