Spices are parts of aromatic plants with a strong flavor or preparations, including mixtures made from these plants. They are used in small amounts in the various cuisines as preservatives, flavoring or coloring. Spices are to differentiate from other products used to flavor dishes such as herbs or fruit. Most are exotic products. Spices were among the most expensive commercial products during the Middle Ages and antiquity. Many spices were also once used in medicine.
Young spices have played an important role in human history. They were among the most valuable property in the trade of ancient and medieval world. In Genesis, Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers to spice merchants. In the Song of Songs, a biblical poem, the writer compares his beloved to many forms of spices. More generally, the sources of Egypt, China, India and ancient Mesopotamia refer to unidentified spices.
The spice trade developed especially in the Middle East from 2000 BC with cinnamon, cassia and the case of the pepper.
A recent archaeological discovery suggests that the introduction of the clove, indigenous to the Indonesian island of Ternate in the Moluccas, the Middle East may have begun earlier. Indeed, we found a clove from the charred remains on the floor of a kitchen fire in the Mesopotamian site of the current Terqa in Syria, dated to 1700 BC The Indian epic the Ramayana, may be written around 200 BC, mentions cloves. He was certainly known to the Romans in the first century AD, Pliny the Elder, as described in his writings.
In South Asia, nutmeg, some authors date the introduction in Europe in the sixth century BC, is native to the islands in the Moluccas and Banda is appointed by a Sanskrit name, the language of the sacred texts of Hinduism , which shows the antiquity of its use in the region. .
Arab merchants controlled the routes between the Middle East and India until Roman times with the discovery of sea routes. Indonesian merchants went to China, India, Middle East and on the east coast of Africa. Thirteenth century to the fifteenth century, the city of Venice has a monopoly of the spice trade with the Middle East. Then the city of Alexandria in Egypt became the center of the spice trade through its port.
Control of trade routes and producing areas of spices was the main reason for the expedition of Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama to India. Spain and Portugal wanted to bypass the virtual monopoly of Venice on the east of the Mediterranean. At the same time, Christopher Columbus, having approached the New World, flashed its investors the opportunity to stock up on spices.
It Afonso de Albuquerque (1453 - 1515) will allow the Portuguese to take control of Arab sea routes to India. In 1506, he took the Socotra archipelago at the entrance to the Red Sea and, in 1507, Hormuz at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. Became viceroy of the Indies, he took Goa in India in 1510 and Malacca on the Malay Peninsula in 1511. The Portuguese could now trade directly with Siam, China and the Moluccas. The Silk Road is lined by the Portuguese sea routes, bringing in Lisbon in Europe the treasures of the Orient, whose coveted spices.
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