BEES, HONEY AND HEALTH IN ANTIQUITY

L. Cilliers, F.P. Retief

Abstract


In antiquity bees and honey had a very special significance. Honey was indeed considered to drip from heaven as the food of the gods. As an infant Zeus was fed on honey in the cave of Dicte, by bees and the beautiful Melissa, whose name became the Greek word for “bee”. When the ancient Romans wished you luck they said “May honey drip on you!” and for the Israelites Palestine was a “land of milk and honey” (Forbes 1957:85-87). In his Georgics Vergil likened the inhabitants of the new Golden Age to an orderly swarm of bees (Johnson 1980:90-105), and the word “honeymoon” probably derived from the ancient custom of newlyweds to drink mead (honey-wine) for a month after their wedding (Hajar 2002:5-6). Allsop and Miller state that even today honey is popularly associated with warmth, nostalgia, goodness and flattery (1996:513-520).

In this study the origins of apiculture (bee-keeping) and the status and uses of honey in antiquity are analysed – with emphasis on its assumed value as a health promoting agent.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7445/53-0-36

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ISSN 2079-2883 (online); ISSN 0303-1896 (print)

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