Ancient Greek History

Importance of Salt in Ancient Greece

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Salt has had a legendary history and is used throughout the world. It grew to become highly prized in many worldwide civilizations and one of its most prized uses was as a food preservative. It is also a vital flavor that we recognize, and we even have taste buds devoted to identifying its presence in the foods that we eat.

The Ancient Greeks definitely placed a high value on salt. There is an ancient saying that was common during this time where people would say, “no one should trust a man without first eating a peck of salt with him.” The meaning behind it is that if you would share your salt with the individual, you could therefore trust him. Here’s more information about the importance of salt in Ancient Greece:

Currency and Trade

Salt was highly prize, this significant part of currency was transported by ships across the Mediterranean Sea. Greeks heavily traded in salt and salt fish with the Phoenicians and Egyptians. Greek historian, Herodotus, discussed one of the main salt trade routes united the salt oases of the Libyan desert. Since it was a scarce commodity, the mineral increased in value. This is where the expression, “Not worth his salt” arose from during slave trading times. In addition, it was also used as a stipend alongside payment for soldiers’ work.

Oldest Food Seasoning

This ancient gift later provided sea salt due to the years of evaporating seawater. “Alas” is a Greek term used for salt, derived from its root word “als” meaning sea. The mineral provided natural flavorings contained from the mineral deposits surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. During this time, civilizations discovered it as a well known preservative for meats. Not having to add ingredients but having different color varieties, sea salts were born and readily produced. Since all the flavor came naturally, they were extracted from the different types of rocks surrounding their deposits. In result, Greek sea salts such as Kalas, Niki, and Perla which have a fine-grained texture add immense fresh ocean flavor to any dish.

Religion and Culture

Declared sacred in religion, it was sprinkled during rituals, sacrifices and offerings. During the new moon ceremonies, along with water, salt was thrown into flames of fire provoking crackling noises to invoke offerings to gods. Civilizations thought this act as a possible origin of Holy Water recognized in Christianity.

Before modern medicine, salt water treated patients as a healing remedy. Before modern spa day, firm believers of its healing created a concept of therapeutic bathing. In order to cleanse the body, they infused salt with herbal blends, lavender and bay laurel leaves that extracted daily toxins. Another contribution salt progressed into was basic soap making.

Dated around 2800 BC, the Greeks were one of the first soap makers who created mixtures of alkaline salts with local vegetable oils, animal fats and wood ashes to form soaps and detergents. By contrast, today an individual uses soap for bathing or personal hygiene, in ancient times, it was produced for cleaning cooking utensils, goods and medicinal purposes.

As you can see, salt is not only important today, but it was also highly valued in Ancient Greece. It had many uses and was considered to be highly valued. It was even used as a form of currency!

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This post was written by GreekBoston.com

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