Friday, May 07, 2021

Fruit of fig in ancient history

The fig tree, which is closely related to the sycamore, is one of the humanity’s oldest cultivated plants dating back archeologically to Jericho (c. 7000 BC).

According to the Jewish Talmud, figs were the first nourishment of human beings, and they were equally important to the ‘idol worshippers’ in neighboring Egypt. Wine and figs had a significant interrelated ritual significance.

Fig was dedicated to Bacchus and employed in religious ceremonies. In the Olympic Games, winning athletes were crowned with fig wreaths and given figs to eat.

As early as the fourth century B.C., Theophrastus reported that most good fruits, including the fig, had received names. Ulysses, the hero of the Odyssey, obtained from his father twenty fig trees, all with names.

Ovid, the Roman poet, states that figs were offered as presents in the Roman celebration of the new year.

Flavius Josephus named the fig the ‘king of all fruit’ and it was considered the ‘sister of the grapevine’ (Hipponax). In ancient Greece, the fig was considered a gift from earth mother, Demeter.

Pliny the Elder in his Natural History extolled "One hundred and eleven observations" on the fig. Among them, "This fruit invigorates the young, and improves the health of the aged and retards the formation of wrinkles," and “Mixed with axle-grease it (fig milk) removes warts."

Pliny listed names of figs and gave the color of mature fruits, but did not describe varieties in detail.
Fruit of fig in ancient history