About four years ago, I posted a blog about citrus fruit being introduced to the West by the soldiers of Alexander the Great – a most gratifying idea (see: What Alexander did for us). Yet a very recent article published by Dr Dafna Langgut, head of the Laboratory of Archaeobotany and Ancient Environments at the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University in ASOR is shedding a scientific light on the matter.
According to this study, citrus originates in
where it was cultivated as early as 2,000 BC. Eventually the fruit arrived in Persia and from there reached the eastern Mediterranean in the 5th-4th
century BC, so well before Alexander the
Great travelled through the area.
In time, limes, sour or bitter oranges, and pummelo (a variety of grapefruit) were added to the varieties and all spread westwards thanks to the Muslim conquests of
Sicily and . Our sweet orange was
a latecomer as we had to wait for it till the 15th century, and the
mandarin was only introduced in the early 19th century. Spain
Well, so much for the history of citrus fruits but it is clear the it was known to the Persians when Alexander conquered their Empire. He must have been confronted with some variety of citrus as soon as he marched along the eastern basin of the
Mediterranean but that is something we will