Pomegranate in Ancient Egypt

Pomegranate in Ancient Egypt
The pomegranate was known by the ancient Egyptians as well as the ancient Greeks.

Pomegranate in Ancient Egypt

The pomegranate plant was introduced to ancient Egypt sometime around 1550-1600 B.C. It had arrived by way of the Caspian Sea region. Ancient Egyptian tomb paintings dating from the 16th century B.C. show the trees and fruits in the New Kingdom. This tomb art depicted the trees growing with other plants around a pool as well as against walls.

Hieroglyphics carved on stone tablets of a pyramid dating to the 15th century B.C. revealed the very earliest known menu of ancient times. The meal featured pomegranates. This menu was in honor of the birth of the prince’s twin sons, one of whom would later become Ramses III.

In an Egyptian tomb dating to 1470 B.C., archaeologists found a whole dried pomegranate. This tomb belonged to Queen Hatshepsut’s butler, Djehuty.

Archaeologists have also found a golden throne of Tutankhamun and his queen, which showed them wearing floral collars containing pomegranate leaves. The ancient Egyptians also used both pomegranate fruits and flowers to make such decorative collars. These items were also used to decorate garlands and bouquets, which were worn or carried by ancient Egyptian women and men for ceremonial events.

There are also other mentions of pomegranate plants and fruits in other Egyptian hieroglyphics. The ancient Egyptians used pomegranate juice for wine. In addition to their culinary uses, the fruits served as a vermifuge.

Pomegranate in Ancient Greece

According to legend, this fruit tree was first planted in Greece by Aphrodite. Greek myths indicate the fruit symbolized the blood of Dionysius Zagreus, who was killed by the Titans. In ancient Greece, the pomegranate was considered sacred to the goddess of marriage, and childbirth, Hera. She was also the goddess of heaven and directed Helios across the sky. The fruits were also considered an attribute of Venus, the goddess of fertility and prosperity.

Theophrastus (around 371-287 B.C.), a Greek philosopher and naturalist, was one of the first to describe the plant. The fruits were sold in ancient Greek markets during the Hellenistic age.

The plants and fruits are mentioned twice in Homer’s “Odyssey.” The author gives a detailed description of the plants and gardens in two locations, Phrygia and Pheacia. These include a detailed description of the garden at the palace of Alcinous (king of the Phoenicians), which experts believe would have been located on Corfu, also known as Scherie. Corfu was a location where Odysseus was shipwrecked. The garden featured a four acre walled orchard that contained various kinds of fruit trees, including pomegranates. According to the author, the trees bore fruits year-round.

An ancient Greek myth is told in a Homeric hymn dated to the seventh century B.C. concerns the pomegranate fruit. The nymph Persephone, also known as Proserpina, was the daughter of Demeter, the grain and fertility goddess. Pluto, the god of Hades or the underworld, abducted Persephone and took her to the underworld. Grief stricken, she refused to eat anything. Her grief stricken mother neglected her duties and as a result the crops refused to grow. So, Zeus sent Hermes to return the girl to her mother. As Hermes arrived to rescue Persephone, she succumbed to hunger and ate a bite of a pomegranate. Hermes brought her back to earth and she was allowed to remain with her mother for only part of each year, which is supposed to explain why we have winter.

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