Aside from being a contributing factor in the development of civilization, salt was also used in the military practice of salting the earth by various peoples, beginning with the Assyrians.

It is commonly believed that Roman soldiers were at certain times paid with salt. (They say the soldiers who did their job well were "worth their salt.)"[2] [3][4] This, however, is debatable: 'salary' derives from the Latin word salarium, possibly referring to money given to soldiers so they could buy salt.[5] The Roman Republic and Empire controlled the price of salt, increasing it to raise money for wars, or lowering it to be sure that the poorest citizens could easily afford this important part of the diet.

It was also of high value to the Hebrews, Greeks, the Chinese and other peoples of antiquity.

Already in the early years of the Roman Republic, with the growth of the city of Rome, roads were built to make transportation of salt to the capital city easier. An example was the Via Salaria (originally a Sabine trail), leading from Rome to the Adriatic Sea. The Adriatic Sea, having a higher salinity due to its shallow depth, had more productive solar ponds compared with those of the Tyrrhenian Sea, much closer to Rome.

During the late Roman Empire and throughout the Middle Ages salt was a precious commodity carried along the salt roads into the heartland of the Germanic tribes. Caravans consisting of as many as forty thousand camels traversed four hundred miles of the Sahara bearing salt to inland markets in the Sahel, sometimes trading salt for slaves: Timbuktu was a huge salt and slave market.

[edit] Biblical references

In the Old Testament, Mosaic law called for salt to be added to all burnt animal sacrifices (Lev. 2:13).

The Book of Ezra (550 BC to 450 BC) associated accepting salt from a person with being in that person's service. In Ezra 4:14, the servants of Artaxerxes I of Persia explain their loyalty to the King. When translated, it is either stated literally as "because we have eaten the salt of the palace" or more figuratively as "because we have maintenance from the king".

Salt is used as a metaphor in the Bible. In the New Testament, Matthew 5:13, Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth". He added that if the salt loses its flavor, it is good for nothing but to be trampled. Jesus said this in order to show his disciples how valuable they were and this saying is commonly used today to describe someone who is of particular value to society. In addition, the preservative quality of salt is in view here to show how the disciples were called to preserve the society and the world around them from moral decay. On another occasion, according to the Gospels, Jesus commanded his followers to "have salt within them".

[edit] Cities and wars

Salt production on Læsø, Denmark (reconstruction)

Salt has played a prominent role in determining the power and location of the world's great cities. Liverpool rose from just a small English port to become the prime exporting port for the salt dug in the great Cheshire salt mines and thus became the entrepôt for much of the world's salt in the 19th century.[1]

Salt created and destroyed empires. The salt mines of Poland led to a vast kingdom in the 16th century, only to be destroyed when Germans brought in sea salt (to most of the world, considered superior to rock salt). Venice fought and won a war with Genoa over salt. However, Genoese Christopher Columbus and Giovanni Caboto would later destroy the Mediterranean trade by introducing the New World to the market.[1]

Cities, states and duchies along the salt roads exacted heavy duties and taxes for the salt passing through their territories. This practice even caused the formation of cities, such as the city of Munich in 1158, when the then Duke of Bavaria, Henry the Lion, decided that the bishops of Freising no longer needed their salt revenue.[1]

The gabelle—a hated French salt tax—was enacted in 1286 and maintained until 1790. Because of the gabelles, common salt was of such a high value that it caused mass population shifts and exodus, attracted invaders and caused wars.[1]

In American history, salt has been a major factor in outcome of wars. In the Revolutionary War, the British used Loyalists to intercept Rebel salt shipments and interfere with their ability to preserve food.[1] During the War of 1812, salt brine was used to pay soldiers in the field, as the government was too poor to pay them with money.[citation needed] Before Lewis and Clark set out for the Louisiana Territory, President Jefferson in his address to Congress mentioned a mountain of salt supposed to lie near the Missouri River, which would have been of immense value, as a reason for their expedition. (By 1810, new discoveries along the Kanawha and Sandy Rivers had greatly reduced the value of salt.){{

During India's independence movement, Mohandas Gandhi organized the Salt Satyagraha protest to demonstrate against the British salt tax.[1]

Copyright © 2006-21 Claud "Sonny" Rouch, all rights reserved. Website by OACYS Technology. Cover photo by Roberts Engineering.