Why Was Salt an Important Trade Item in Ancient Times?

Salt has been an important trade item since ancient times. This precious commodity has played a significant role in various cultures and civilizations throughout history. In this article, we will explore why salt was so valuable and how it became an essential trade item in ancient times.

The Value of Salt

Salt is not just a seasoning for food, but it has many practical uses as well. It was used to preserve food before refrigeration was invented, and it also has medicinal properties. In addition, salt was used in the manufacturing of glass, soap, and other products.

The History of Salt Trade

The history of salt trade dates back to over 4,000 years ago when the Egyptians used salt as a form of currency. They traded salt for gold and slaves with neighboring countries. The Greeks also recognized the value of salt and traded it with other civilizations.

In medieval times, salt trade became a major industry in Europe. The Venetians controlled most of the salt trade routes during this time and made a fortune from it. They established ports along the Adriatic Sea where they could store and trade salt.

Salt Trade Routes

Salt trade routes were established all over the world to transport this valuable commodity from one place to another. In China, there was a famous route known as the “Salt Road” that connected Tibet with central China. In Africa, there was a major trade route known as the “Saharan Salt Trade Route,” which connected West Africa with North Africa.

Salt Taxes

Many governments imposed taxes on salt to generate revenue. In India, for example, the British East India Company imposed a tax on salt production known as the “salt tax.” This tax led to widespread protests by Indian citizens under Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership during India’s struggle for independence from British rule.


In conclusion, salt has been an important trade item since ancient times. Its practical uses and medicinal properties made it valuable in various cultures and civilizations.

The establishment of salt trade routes and the imposition of salt taxes by governments demonstrate its economic significance. Despite modern advancements, the importance of salt has remained unchanged throughout history.