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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Honey in Ancient Greece


Very few among the basic food products included in human diet, such as honey, enjoy global fame, which in turn is closely knit to the individual characteristics and traditions of each locality. Specifically to the Greek landscape, already from ancient times, our ancestors were well aware of the great nutritional value and would describe it with divine and reverent attributes. The most ancient character to appear in apiculture is Aristeos, one of the most enigmatic characters of ancient Greek folklore deities and the central character of the mythological circle of Kea.

Aristeos was the fruit of the union between Apollo and the nymph Cyrene. The moment he was born, Hermes handed him to Gaia and to the Ores (Hours) to raise. And it was they who fed the baby with drops of ambrosia and nectar through his lips so that he may become immortal. When Aristeos came of age, they trained him as an Oracle and a Doctor. From the Nymphs, he was taught grapevine culture, olive tree culture and apiculture, an art that would, from then on, characterize him more than any other. Kea is considered the first stop of Aristeos, where he taught the inhabitants of the island the art of apiculture. Therefore, Aristeos was, especially for the islanders of Kea, the first inventor of a series of useful arts, with most important that of the bee culture. Aristeos and the bee would become the basic symbols of the island and were depicted on coins of Ioulida, Karthea and Corisia. The myth of Aristeos stands proof of the existence of fervent apiculture in ancient times. One may find additional proof of that as one goes down historic times.
 
Aristotle’s works (322 B.C) proved to be a milestone so much in Ancient Greece but also in the rest of the civilized world of the times. Aristotle was the first to scientifically study the bee. The father of Medicine, Hippocrates (462-352 B.C) prescribed honey to all people but especially to patients. They both believed that honey could prolong human's life.

Solon, the great law maker of Athens (640-558 B.C.) set out a number of legal measures pertaining to the apiculture of that period.

Democritus, in reply to whether it would be possible for humans to stay healthy and live longer, answered” “One should nourish his skin with olive oil and his insides with honey”.

Pythagoras and his followers considered honey as the main ingredient of their diet. 
                                                                                                                 

Eva Kanakaki |Graduate in Greek Literature

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