The earliest known depictions of honey harvesting appear in Mesolithic cave drawings in Spain, dating to the 6th millennium B.C., showing people in honey harvesting locations surrounded by flying bees. In Greece, the earliest finding is from Sesklo, in the region of Thessaly, and it is a container most likely used to smoke bees from the final Neolithic period (4500-3300 B.C.).
In Greek mythology, bees and, directly or indirectly, honey hold a significant place. It is known that the nymphs Amaltheia and Melissa fed Zeus with milk and honey. Zeus grew fond of honey and one of his names is “Melitteus”, in honor of his nurse, Melissa. So, honey was considered the divine food of “mortals and immortals” that granted immortality and strength.
During this period, in the Mediterranean basin, it becomes clear that honey, in addition to being used as a food, also held a notable role in religious devotion, in the preparation of medicine, ointments, fragrances, drinks and beverages, and its sale from country to country was slowly beginning.
- In Mesopotamia, a land where the earliest organized societies flourished, we have the first recordings (2700 B.C.) related to the pharmaceutical and nutritional value of honey.
- In Ancient Egypt there are known early elements of the existence of systematic beekeeping, in “clusters” of several cylindrical beehives.
- In Ancient Greece, bees, honey and beeswax held a prominent place for all social classes and groups. From the tablets of Linear B script from Knossos, Mycenae and Pylos we draw valuable information about the distribution of honey, but without references to systematic beekeeping. In everyday life in Ancient Greece, honey was consumed by itself in cooking, or in preparations with other foodstuffs.
We have information about the production and use of:
Apple honey. Apples preserved in honey year-round. The honey acquired the characteristic aroma of apples. The same recipe was used for other fruit.
Melikrato. Honey with milk. Food for children.
Oxymelo. Honey with vinegar. Used to treat fever.
Hydromelo. A liqueur derived from the alcoholic fermentation of honey. Still produced today.
Oenomelo. Honey with wine. It is cited that Democritus lived until great old age because he consumed oenomelo with bread.