History of Salt

Salt was of high value to the Hebrews, Greeks, the Chinese and other peoples of antiquity. Aside from being a contributing factor in the development of civilization, salt was also used in the military practice of ‘salting the earth’ by various people, like the Assyrians.

In the early years of the Roman Republic and the growth of Rome, roads were built to make transportation of salt to the capital city easier. An example is the ‘Via Salaria’, leading from Rome to the Adriatic Sea which have a higher ‘salinity’ due to its shallow depth and therefor more productive salt ponds compared with areas closer to Rome. It is commonly believed that Roman soldiers were at certain times paid with salt. As they say: the soldiers who did their job well were "worth their salt." Still today we use this phrase! Also the word 'salary' derives from the Latin word salārium, possibly referring to money given to soldiers so they could buy salt.

During the late Roman Empire and throughout the middle ages, salt was a precious commodity carried along the ‘salt roads’ into the heartland of the Germanic tribes. Caravans as many as thousands camels traversed four hundred miles of the Sahara desert bearing salt to inland markets in the Sahel, sometimes trading salt for slaves. For that reason, Timbuktu, the Capital city of today’s Mali, was a huge salt and slave market.



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