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Greek Honey

'ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΟ ΜΕΛΙ'

The roots of beekeeping in Greece go back for millenia, to a time where mythology and history imperceptibly coalesced. Aristaeus, born to Apollo and the nymph Cyrene, was the first man mentioned with regard to honey. Raised by Gaia and the Horae, they would drizzle nectar and ambrosia on the infant's lips, making him immortal - which is amazingly reminiscent of the process by which a bee becomes a queen.
The Muses taught him divination and medicine and from the Nymphs he was taught the cultivation of wine, the olive tree and beekeeping, an art that would later characterize him more than any other. Aristaeus' first stop is considered to be the Cycladic island Kea where he taught the island's inhabitants beekeeping. Aristaeus and the bee would become the main symbols of the island, now depicted on the coins of Toulida, Karthaia and Korisia.

In Crete, during the excavations in Phaistos, clay hives were found dating from the Minoan era (3,400 B.C.). Also belonging to the same period is a gold jewel depicting two bees and a honeycomb, as well as another gold jewel in the shape of a bee.

In the ancient city of Knossos in Crete, a placard was found with the inscription: "Πάσι Θεοίς Μέλι: ΑΜΦΟΡΕΥΣ 1" which translates to: "Honey is offered to all the Gods: an Amphora".

The Odyssey mentions the "Melikraton," which was a mixture of honey and milk. Also in the Odyssey: the orphaned daughters of Pindar were fed by the Goddess Aphrodite with cheese, honey and wine. With the same food Circe seduced the companions of Odysseus.

Hesiod mentions the "Symblus," a name given to the hives of that time. Although the type of these hives is not completely known, it is certain that they were made by humans for the breeding of bees.
In addition, the writings of Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) were an important milestone for beekeeping in both ancient Greece and the entire civilized world at the time.

The great Athenian lawmaker Solon (640-558 B.C.) established various legislative measures for beekeeping. A measure which proves the existence of beekeeping businesses and which regulates and determines the distances between apiaries is the following: "Swarms of bees placed at a distance of three hundred feet from the other previously established ones" [Plutarch: Bios Solonos].

The father of Medicine Hippocrates (462-352 B.C.) recommended honey to all people but especially to the sick.

When Democritus (460-370 B.C.) was asked how it is possible to keep people healthy and live longer, he answered: "The outside is oil of the body and the inside is honey."

Pythagoras (570-490 B.C.) and his followers had honey as their main food.

The mobile beehive was already in use in ancient Greece. On the island of Kythera, the ancient beekeepers used the Adonaki, which is the forerunner of the modern European beehive, a discovery of the American Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth.

With more than 180 nutrients, honey is a food of high nutritional value. It is an excellent source of carbohydrates, antioxidants, B-complex vitamins, trace elements and minerals (calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, copper) necessary for keeping the body in balance and contributing to everything from bone strength to a healthy metabolism. It has a lower glycemic index than sugar; in small quantities, it may even be suitable for people with diabetes.

The great biodiversity of Greece with over 1,300 endemic plants and an exceptional variety of flowers, herbs and trees, in combination with the rugged territory and its many unspoiled areas far away from industry, has a big influence of the quality of greek honey: it is far superior in flavor, aroma, nutrients and density than honey from other countries. 

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