CLEOPATRA AND ALEXANDER THE GREAT USED SAFFRON AS A HEALTH AND BEAUTY HACK
Cleopatra, the legendary seducer of not one but two powerful men of Ancient Rome, bathed in saffron-infused mare’s milk as an all natural bronzer and aphrodisiac to enhance her allure
The lactic acid contained in milk is believed to gently exfoliate dead skin cells, while saffron gave her skin a healthy glow and acted as a perfume. In fact, saffron baths were a luxurious trend amongst the elite of Rome and the Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great enjoyed soaking in saffron-colored water, convinced it would heal his battle wounds
PEOPLE IN THE MIDDLE AGES WERE WILLING TO DIE FOR SAFFRON
The marketplaces of Medieval Europe were filled with the exotic spices and spoils of returning crusaders. Saffron was so popular in 14th century Europe that the theft of a single ship en route to Basel, Switzerland, carrying 800 pounds of the spice led to the 14-week Saffron War that lasted until the shipment was returned
Its purity was of such importance that the Safranschou code was enacted to deter fraud. Because of saffron’s high price tag, cheap substitutes were often passed off as authentic saffron. Merchants caught selling adulterated forms of the spice faced the possibility of imprisonment, public burning or being buried alive
SAFFRON FEATURES PROMINENTLY IN A COUPLE OF GREEK MYTHS
In Greek mythology, a handsome Arcadian youth named Krokos was passing through the Athenian woods, when he spied the nymph Smilax dancing with her friends.
He was bewitched and began to visit the forest regularly to seek her out. For a time, Smilax allowed him to find her but couldn’t decide if she should let herself be courted by a mortal. The gods were not amused, though, and lost patience with the couple.
They struck Krokos with their wrath, transforming him into a small purple flower that bears his name, the crocus. Its bright red stigmas glow with his fiery, unrequited love. Smilax was simultaneously turned into a thorny briar vine. Why such a choice? Because the vine would strangle the flower, the would-be lovers were prevented from ever meeting again
In another story, Greek god Hermes was smitten with a young Spartan named Krokos, or Crocus
One day, while playing a game of discus, Hermes accidentally struck the young man on the head, killing him instantly. Distraught by what had happened, Hermes turned his lover into a purple flower, which became known as the crocus. And the three drops of blood upon his head became the red stigmata used for the spice saffron
The coat of arms for the town of Saffron Walden in England — note the three crocus flowers at the center