Why Was Salt So Important in Ancient Times?

Salt has been a vital part of human civilization for thousands of years. In ancient times, it was considered one of the most valuable commodities, and it played a significant role in shaping human history. From preserving food to trade and commerce, salt has had numerous uses that have made it an essential element in the lives of people.

What is Salt?

Salt is a naturally occurring compound consisting of two elements – sodium and chlorine. It is found in seawater, rock salt deposits, and salt lakes. Sodium plays a crucial role in maintaining the body’s fluid balance, while chloride helps maintain proper blood pressure levels.

Why Was Salt So Important?

In ancient times, salt was important for several reasons:

Preservation of Food

Before refrigeration was invented, salt was used to preserve food. It inhibits the growth of bacteria that cause spoilage and helps keep food fresh for longer periods. Salt-cured meat such as bacon or ham is still popular today and has its roots in ancient preservation techniques.

Flavoring Food

Salt enhances the flavor of food by making it taste more savory. It also suppresses bitter flavors and balances out sweet flavors. In ancient times when spices were scarce, salt was used as a primary seasoning agent.

Trade and Commerce

Salt was one of the first commodities to be traded on a large scale. It was so valuable that it was often used as currency or exchanged for other goods such as gold or precious stones. The Roman Empire even had a road built solely for transporting salt – the famous Via Salaria.

Social Importance

In many cultures, salt held great social importance. It was often used in religious ceremonies or as a symbol of hospitality. In some societies, sharing bread and salt with guests was seen as a sign of trust and friendship.

The Downside of Salt

While salt played a significant role in ancient times, it is not without its downside. Consuming too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which in turn can cause heart disease and stroke. In modern times, people consume far more salt than they need, often through processed foods that contain high amounts of sodium.


In conclusion, salt was a vital part of human civilization in ancient times. Its uses ranged from preserving food to trade and commerce and even social importance. While it still plays an essential role in our lives today, it’s important to consume it in moderation to avoid health problems.