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The Ancient Greeks Sure Loved Their Honey

It’s no secret that Greece produces some of the finest honey in the world. With boundless sunshine and more than 7,500 unique species of herbs, plants, wild flowers, and trees (850 of which can’t be found anywhere else in the world), the Greek countryside is the perfect place for bees to do their thing.

As it turns out, honey has always been popular in the region! The ancient Greeks used it for everything from medicine to beauty treatments, and it appears over and over again in ancient mythology and literature.

At Greek Lightning, we get the craze. Our honey liqueur would be nothing without organic Greek honey harvested from Sparta’s Taygetos Mountains — it’s the reason Greek Lightning is one of the best tasting liqueurs around! Today, we want to pay homage by stepping into the shoes of the ancient Greeks and look at honey through their eyes. Read on to learn more, and if you’re interested in finding out how to get your hands on a bottle of our sweet honey flavored liqueur, contact us!

Zeus Was Raised on Honey

Honey is kind of a big deal in Greek mythology. The Father of the Gods himself was raised on it!

According to legend, Zeus’s father, Kronos, wanted to kill him pretty much straight out of the womb, so his mother swapped the baby out with a rock and smuggled the infant Zeus to a secret cave. From there, there are several versions of the story of Zeus’s childhood, but in almost all of them, he is nourished by honey. In one legend, the cave is full of sacred bees which feed him honey, and he later rewards them by giving them their brilliant golden coloring. In another, a nymph named Melissa (the demi-goddess of honey and beekeeping) nourishes him with honey and milk from a goat named Amaltheia.

It wasn’t just Zeus, though — all of the gods loved honey. Ambrosia, known as “the food of the gods,” was thought to grant immortality to those who consumed it, and it was known to taste of honey. Likewise, the honey-like nectar was the gods’ divine drink. Every morning, doves delivered large quantities of both to Mount Olympus, where they were closely guarded from mortals. The next best thing on earth was honey, and even that was thought to fall from the heavens.

Bees Were Messengers of the Gods

No one knew exactly where honey came from; it seemed to just appear wherever there were bees. Because of this, the ancient Greeks believed that honey must be astron: stardust sprinkled from the heavens and collected by bees from earthly trees and flowers.

Bees were regarded as sacred messengers of the gods, especially the Muses — the goddesses of art, poetry, and science. They granted mortals the gifts of wisdom and eloquence by sending bees to anoint their lips with honey.

Beekeeping Was All the Rage

Ancient Greek literature reveals that folks back then were preoccupied with finding and cultivating honey. Homer, the legendary author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, wrote about gathering wild honey from combs in the rock.

Beekeeping, along with olive growing and cheese making, quickly became a popular agricultural art among Athenians. The famous philosopher Aristotle was not a beekeeper himself, but he wrote at length about bees in his first book Historia Animalium (“A History of Animals”). At the time, many people believed that bees did not have offspring, but rather found them and plucked them from flowers. Aristotle figured out that they reproduced and developed within honeycomb cells. (He could not, however, figure out how they made honey, and believed that it came from the atmosphere.)

The ancient mathematician Pythagoras considered honey an elixir of youth that guaranteed a long life. This was a very common belief, and honey was everywhere in daily life.

Honey Was Used In Cooking, Beauty, Sports, and Medicine

Honey was an important food that was often used to sweeten cakes and sweetmeats. Cheeses mixed with honey made cheesecakes, which Euripides (one of the great Greek tragedians) apparently loved — he described cheesecake as being “steeped most thoroughly in the rich honey of the golden bee.” Sometimes, honeycakes were made as offerings to the gods.

Additionally, honey was thought to have powerful healing properties. We know today that honey is an excellent source of antioxidants, so the ancients may have been on to something, although they probably overestimated its power. Doctors prescribed it as a cure for various ailments, and Hippocrates himself (known as the father of Western medicine) used it to treat fevers, sore throats, and even open wounds.

Really, honey was everywhere you turned. Olympic athletes supposedly drank honey water to regain their strength after competitions. “Honey therapy” was a popular treatment at health spas in Athens. Honey was the main ingredient in many beauty masks.

Get Your Honey Fix With Greek Lightning Honey Liqueur

Who’s in the mood for honey? Centuries after the ancient Greeks were slathering it on their faces and baking it into cakes, we still can’t get enough of the stuff. If you’re suddenly craving a honey-sweet treat, Greek Lightning’s honey liqueur is sure to delight. Each bottle of our all-Greek liqueur is distilled at the legendary Callicounis Distillery, infused with organic grape honey from orange blossom trees, and blended with aromatic spices and flavors. If we didn’t know better, we would suspect it of being the mythic nectar of the gods!

Contact us to find out how you can add Greek Lightning to your bar program, or purchase a bottle near you today!