Ancient Roman Cinnamon
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Ancient Roman Cinnamon
(Revelation 18.11-13)
Page 260

"The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes anymore — cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth, every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and carriages, and human beings sold as slaves." (Revelation 18.11-13)✞


CinnamonAncient Roman cinnamon was a luxury spice for both sweet and savory foods which was transported by boat from Northern India, China and Arabia to Rome. "True cinnamon" was a spice obtained from the bark of perhaps a dozen species of trees. The name "cinnamon" from the Greek word "kinnamomon" refered to its mid-brown color. The English word can be traced back to the 15th century. In Rome, it was very expensive and commanded a price of about $130 per pound. Another similar spice called "cassia" and came from Arabia and Ethiopia. The word "cassia" was first recorded in 1000 BC and derives from the Hebrew meaning "to strip off bark." Spice and the spice trade are misleading terms here for they also include other products such as cardamom, ginger, pepper and turmeric. The sweet-smelling Cinnamon balsam was also used in ancient Rome as a dressing for the hair and as an oil for funeral rites. According to the Roman author Pliny the Younger, (61-113 AD) a pound weight of cinnamon cost up to 400 denarii which was a full year's wage for a working man in Rome. Normally cinnamon was too expensive for ordinary people to use for funeral rites, but the Emperor Nero was said to have burned a year's worth at his wife's funeral in 65 AD. Cinnamon was also used as a perfume with which to greet guests at banquets and to scent rooms after meals.✞

Temple Incense

Priest at Incense AltarIn the Old Testament, incense had a religious use as an accompaniment to sacrifice in the Temple. According to the Talmud, Cinnamon, myrrh, cassia, spikenard, saffron and other ingredients were added to perfumed gums or balsams to make up the Temple incense.✞

Wine and Carriages

Ancient Roman Carriage on CoinAside from cinnamon and other spices, the Book of Revelation also mentioned carriages traded by the Roman merchants. The carriages mentioned here were not racing or military chariots but four-wheeled private chariots, in which wealthy aristocrats rode around Rome. They were often silver-plated! In the ancient world, wine was also universally drunk although drunkenness was regarded as a grave disgrace. Wine was usually diluted in the proportion of two parts of wine to five parts of water. Even slaves had abundant supplies of wine as part of their daily ration, since it was very cheap and replaced the water which was often dirty and germ ridden.✞

"Ancient Roman Cinnamon"
by Ron Meacock © 2018

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