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

"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 from Northern India, China and Arabia. "True cinnamon" was a spice obtained from the bark of perhaps a dozen species of trees. The name "cinnamon" refers to its mid-brown color. In Rome, it was very expensive and commanded a price of about $130 per pound. The word "cinnamon" can be traced back to the 15th century from the Greek word "kinnamomon." Other similar spices are called "cassia" and came from Arabia and Ethiopia. The word "cassia" was first recorded in 1000 BC and derives from the Hebrew, "to strip off bark." Spice and the spice trade are misleading terms here for they include other spices such as cardamom, ginger, pepper and turmeric. The spice trade brought cinnamon and other spices from Asia and North East Africa to Europe. Cinnamon was a sweet-smelling balsam, which was also used 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, a full year's working man's wage in Rome. Normally cinnamon was too expensive to use for funeral rites, but the Emperor Nero is said to have burned a year's worth at his wife's funeral in 65 AD.✞

Spice Trade

Priest at Incense AltarIn the Old Testament, incense had a religious use as an accompaniment to sacrifice in the Temple. Temple incense was made of perfumed gums or balsams. According to the Talmud seven other ingredients were added including myrrh, cassia, spikenard, saffron and cinnamon. Roman cinnamon was also used as a perfume with which to greet guests and to scent rooms after meals.✞


Ancient Roman Carriage on CoinIn the ancient world, wine was universally drunk, but drunkenness was regarded as a grave disgrace. Wine was usually highly 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. The carriages here mentioned in Revelation, were not racing or military chariots but four-wheeled private chariots, in which wealthy aristocrats rode around Rome. They were often silver-plated!

"Ancient Roman Cinnamon"
by Ron Meacock © 2017

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