Monday, January 4, 2021

Wheat cultivation in ancient Greece

Wheat as a staple food was cultivated in ancient Greece in prehistoric times. Cultivation of wheat began to spread beyond the Fertile Crescent after about 8000 BC. Jared Diamond in his excellent book, “Guns Germs and Steel”, traces the spread of cultivated emmer wheat starting in the “Fertile Crescent” about 8500 BC, reaching Greece by 6500 BC, Egypt shortly thereafter, followed by introductions in Germany and Spain by 5000 BC.

Cereals, vine, and oil were the basic agricultural products in ancient Greece like in the entire Mediterranean region. The choice to cultivate depended first on environmental conditions. Wheat was one of the main cereal crops in ancient Greek agriculture.

The coastal lowlands were very attractive for ancient people thus most of the human settlements had been established in such areas. Mild winters and hot summers are the characteristics of the coastal lowlands of the Greece. This type of climate is very advantageous for some annual crops like wheat and for some perennial crops like olive.

Bread made from wheat was eaten, and flour was sold in the markets of Athens and elsewhere. Grain from the Greek colonies in southern Italy was shipped to Athens through the port of Piraeus and ground into particularly soft white flour. In ancient Greece, a keen rivalry existed between cities as to which produce the best bread.

The Greeks planted “naked wheat,” an evolved variety whose grain could be easily separated from the hulls when threshed. Until the Greeks arrived, the Egyptians used only Triticum turgidum of the dicoccum variety, which require more labor to arrive at the same result.
Wheat cultivation in ancient Greece

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