How Valuable Was Salt in Ancient Times?

Salt is an essential mineral that has been valued since ancient times. It has played a crucial role in human history and has been used for various purposes. In this article, we will explore how valuable salt was in ancient times.

The Importance of Salt in Ancient Times

Salt has been a valuable commodity for thousands of years. In fact, it was so important that it was often used as currency. The word “salary” comes from the Latin word “salarium,” which was the money paid to Roman soldiers to buy salt.

Preservation of Food

One of the most important uses of salt in ancient times was for food preservation. Before refrigeration, people had to find ways to preserve their food, especially meat and fish, to ensure they had enough to eat during the winter months. Salt was used to cure and dry meats, which allowed them to be stored for longer periods without spoiling.

Flavoring Food

Salt also played an important role in flavoring food. It enhances the taste of food by bringing out its natural flavors and balancing sweet and bitter flavors. In ancient times, salt was often used as a seasoning for vegetables and meat dishes.

Religious Significance

Salt also had religious significance in many ancient cultures. In some cultures, it was believed that salt had purifying properties and could ward off evil spirits. For example, in Judaism, salt is used during religious ceremonies as a symbol of purification.

The Trade of Salt

The demand for salt led to its trade across different regions in ancient times. Salt mines were established in various parts of the world such as China, India, Europe and North America. The trade routes that developed around these mines became known as “salt roads” or “salt routes.”

Salt Mines in Europe

One of the most famous salt mines in ancient times was located in Hallstatt, Austria. The area around the mine was so rich in salt that it became known as “white gold.” Salt from this mine was traded throughout Europe and was highly valued.

The Role of Salt in the Roman Empire

The Romans were known for their use of salt. They used it to preserve food, flavor their dishes, and even as a medicine. The Roman Empire controlled many of the world’s salt mines, which gave them a monopoly on this valuable commodity.

The Legacy of Salt

Today, salt remains an essential part of our lives. It is used for food preservation, seasoning, and even has industrial uses. The legacy of salt can still be seen in our language with phrases like “worth its weight in salt” and “take it with a grain of salt.”


Salt has been a valuable commodity for thousands of years and has played an important role in human history. Its uses for food preservation, flavoring food, and religious significance have made it an essential part of many cultures. The trade routes that developed around salt mines led to the development of new trade routes and helped shape the world we live in today.