- The river Rhine, it is well knownDoth wash your city of Cologne;But tell me, nymphs, what power divineShall henceforth wash the river Rhine?ColeridgeCologne, a city on the Rhine, where "eau de cologne" was first made, was founded in 38 B.C. as Ara Ubiorum. When the city became a Roman colony in A.D. 50 its name was changed to Colonia Agrippina in honor of the Roman empress Agrippina Minor (A.D. 15-59), who was born there. Later the French modified the name to Cologne, and that is the way it has remained in English.Historians studying the life of Agrippina would all agree that the city was entitled to a breath of fresh cologne, for the empress adulterated everything around her during her brief (43 years) life. She poisoned at least one of her husbands, committed incest with her brother, the emperor Caligula, and married her uncle, the emperor Claudius. She was the mother of Nero by one of her husbands and was as ruthless as her son. Nero came to hate her, charged her with an attempt on his life, and had her put to death. The empress, one might say, had lived a pretty active life but suffered a ghastly end. The stench of her nefarious activities, fortunately, has not affected the fragrance of the city's colognes.The cathedral of Cologne is famous because, according to medieval legend, it houses the bones of the three Wise Men of the East, the Magi.
Dictionary of eponyms. Morton S. Freeman. 2013.