Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene / Alexandria on the Indus (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Alexander and Citrus fruits

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 Southeast Asia 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.

First to arrive was the citron (citrus medica), that had a thick rind and a small dry pulp as pictured in my abovementioned blog. The citron and the lemon (citrus limon, a crossing of the citron and the bitter orange) travelled to the western Mediterranean and made their way to the gardens of the wealthy Romans living around Rome and Mount Vesuvius in the 3rd-2nd century BC. The fruits were appreciated for their healing powers, their pleasant odor, and of course, for their rarity since only the rich could afford such luxury.

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 Spain. 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.

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 never know.

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