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Citrons and lemons were status symbols for the ancient Roman ruling elite, researchers have found.
While citrus orchards are common in Mediterranean regions today, citrus fruits are not native to the Mediterranean - instead, they came from Southeast Asia.
Study - Researchers - Tel - Aviv - University
The study, conducted by researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU), plots the route and evolution of the citrus trade in the ancient Mediterranean.
The study was based on a collection of ancient texts, art, artifacts and archaeobotanical remains including fossil pollen grains, charcoals, seeds and other fruit remnants.
Century - AD - Citrus - Romans - Citrons
Until the first century AD, the only citrus produce available to the ancient Romans were the extremely rare and expensive citrons and lemons.
'Today, citrus orchards are a major component of the Mediterranean landscape and one of the most important cultivated fruits in the region,' said Dr Dafna Langgut of TAU's Institute of Archaeology and The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History.
Citrus - Mediterranean - Basin - Southeast - Asia
'But citrus is not native to the Mediterranean Basin and originated in Southeast Asia.
'My findings show that citrons and lemons were the first citrus fruits to arrive in the Mediterranean and were status symbols for the elite.
Citrus - Fruits - Millennium - Reasons
'All other citrus fruits most probably spread more than a millennium later for economic reasons.'
At first, Romans only had access to rough-skinned citrons, also called etrogim, which consists of mostly rind and dry, tasteless flesh.
Citron - Rome - Israel - Remains - Citron
The citron arrived in Rome from what is now Israel, and the earliest botanical remains of the citron were identified in a Persian royal garden near Jerusalem and dated to the 5th-4th centuries BC.
It's presumed that citrons spread from there to other locations around the Mediterranean.
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