[Sca-cooks] sugar and rice in Iberia

Terry Decker t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net
Wed Jul 4 15:24:29 PDT 2007

> However Being as the the Visagoths were allies to the Romans before they
> got royaly stabbed in the back and the Romans copy much of the 
> developments
> of Greece, being as it is generaly accepted that Alexander the great 
> brought
> rice back to the Med, it is quite possible that they knew of rice if not 
> of
> its growing. Since they most likely knew of rice they would have found the
> Moores of Africa a viable trading partener from whom they could have 
> aquired
> rice.

Rice was known, but, apparently, not grown.  Celsus, Pliny, Galen and 
Dioscorides knew of the plant, but there are no references to its 
cultivation in the Roman sources.  That it was found, probably in the Indus 
valley, during Alexander's Indian expedition (327-324 BCE) is generally 
accepted, but it's use other than as an imported medicine is unknown.  The 
collapse of Alexander's empire and the expansion of Rome into the Greek City 
States may have prevented adoption of sugarcane and rice cultivation at that 

The article on rice in The Cambridge World History of Food states that 
rather than rice, rice wine was imported into Rome.  The article appears to 
be citing, Lu, J.J. and Chang, T.T., "Rice in Its Temporal and Spatial 
Perspectives" pp 1-74; in Luh, B.S.,ed., Rice:  Production and Utilization, 
Westport, Conn, 1980.

Thus setting up the invite to the moores to come across in 711 by a
> Visagothic prince( rather kryptic that date). So whilst we can not prove
> rice was grown in Iberia before then we can accept I believe that it was
> maybe not in common ussage but still there.

Rice cultivation probably began in Egypt in the 6th or 7th Century (Owen, 
Roger and Sri, The Rice Book, 1993.).  If true, rice was a realtively new 
crop in the Mediterranean Basin and may not have had time to spread widely. 
The Visigothic Kindom had spread from Spain into North Africa by that time, 
but there is little evidence of a continuous trade with Egypt and no 
evidence of rice cultivation.

By the time of the invasion, Islam was not yet one hundred years old and 
it's expansion into North Africa began in 642, was interrupted by a civil 
war, are restarted in 661 under the Umayyad Caliphs.  The conquest of North 
Africa was almost complete by 682, but the Moslem army was forced to retreat 
from the area around Tripoli by the Visigothic governor of Cetua, "Count 
Julian."  Between a Byzantine invasion and a Berber rebellion, the Moslem 
army was in a continuing state of combat until 698, when North Africa was 
divided into three provinces.  Given the state of North Africa during the 
period, I hardly think it was an auspicious time for spreading rice 
cultivation west from Egypt.

> Cane I believe comes from Egypt so again since the Romans and Visagoths 
> had
> connections they would have known sugar. So both items are to my mind 
> anyway
> extremely likely to have existed in Iberia(Spain) prior to 711 if as trade
> goods if nothing else.
> Cealian

Sugar cane comes from India, where sugar refining began around 500 BCE. 
>From there it spread to China and Persia.  While the Greeks and Romans knew 
about sugar, it was present only as a rare, imported medicine.  Cane first 
arrived on the eastern Mediterranean around 600 CE (J.H. Galloway), just in 
time to become part of the Islamic expansion.  So it is highly unlikely that 
Iberia had any experience with sugarcane.  As for it being a trade good, 
until the Arabs conquered much of the Mediterranean and instituted sugarcane 
cultivation where it could, there wasn't a sugar trade.


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