From the Queen of Sheba to Alexander
The Bible tells of Joseph being sold to a spice caravan by his brothers. But one of the first detailed episode was the encounter between the Queen of Sheba and the King Salomon.
The gift of Queen of Sheba.
According to the Hebrew Bible, in 992 b.c., the unnamed queen of the land of Sheba embarked for a journey to place a visit to King Solomon of Israel, known for his great wisdom. The visit is reported in the Bible as follows (Kings 1:10): "And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart." ... Read More »
The Arab Monopoly
The people of the Mediterranean traded for spices from the earliest times. The Egyptians used herbs and spices for embalming and to fumigate their homes. Spices and precious stones from the Far East were taken overland by donkey and later by camel caravans along the Incense Route. This trail led from Hadhramaut in South Arabia along the Arabian coast, then North via Mecca to Egypt and Syria. For centuries Arabs acted as middlemen in trade with the Orient and Africa. To preserve their monopoly they kept secret the provenance of their wares. Fantastic tales on the location of the spices were spread by the Arab merchants to discourage the buyers from finding the source and then dealing directly. It was said to the effect that cassia grew in shallow lakes guarded by winged animals and that cinnamon grew in deep glens infested with poisonous snakes.
Alexandria, the new warehouse for the Spices.
Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great in 332 BC, and quickly became an important trading post between Europe and Asia, because it profited from the easy overland connection between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. This was the perfect spot to be the meeting place from merchants from East and West. This trade place superceed rapidly the ones put in place by the Phoenicians around the Mediterranean.