Ancient Greek History

Herbs and Spices of Ancient Greece

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Herbs and SpicesIn Ancient Greece, herbs were used both in food and for medicine. In fact, the whole system of medicine that the Ancient Greek physicians practiced is based around the variety of herbs and spices that are found growing in the Greek countryside.

The Ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates, is credited with saying, “Let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food.” Herbs and spices did make it into the cuisine both as a cure and to enhance the flavor of the food.

Greece has an ideal climate for growing certain herbs. For example, certain varieties of oregano and mint require a lot of sunshine and also warm temperatures. Since they grow in such abundance, it is no surprise that they became an important part of the culture.

Herbs were also used in some religious ceremonies during the time period. What follows is some information about three of the most common herbs and spices that were used in Ancient Greece and how they were commonly used.


Marjoram is one of the more popular seasonings in Modern Greek cooking. It has a slightly more delicate flavor than oregano but the two are remarkably similar. Today, marjoram is used in cooking much the same way as oregano is – to flavor foods such as soups, stews, and meat.

In Ancient Greece, it was used to adorn people’s graves because it was considered an herb that could help make their final resting place filled with eternal happiness and peace. Marjoram was also made into wreaths and given to newly married couples as a symbol of their happiness and love.


Today, dill is used in everything from fresh salads to spanakopita. However, in Ancient Greece, it was used primarily as a medicinal herb. For example, soldiers used it for a variety of purposes but the most popular was as a wound healer and for burns. Others would use it to promote sleep by placing the fresh herb over their eyes just before bed.

It was also used in victory celebrations. Crowns of dill would be placed over the heads of heroes as they returned from battle. In cooking, they would often use it as a flavoring for wine.


Fennel looks a lot like dill, but the flavor is very different because it has a distinct anise flavor. Today it is used to flavor savory foods such as meats, seafood, pitas, and vegetable dishes.

The Ancient Greek word for fennel is “marathon” – named after Marathon, Greece after they defeated the Persians in 490 BC. That particular battle is said to been fought in a field that was rich in fennel. The Ancient Greeks also believed that the herb helped promote endurance and longevity.

Critics of Herodotus don’t refer to him as The Father of History. They refer to him as The Father of Lies because they feel that he had an intentional bias against certain things and would purposefully leave them out of his accounts. For example, the Thebans and Corinthians didn’t support his work. As a result, he didn’t paint them in a favorable light in any of his historical accountings.

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This post was written by Greek Boston

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