History of Cider Part I: Early Development

March 1, 2010

When I sat down to do research regarding the history of cider, two things became quite evident. First, I could not write a history about cider without talking about the history of the apple, and second, that I was not going to do justice to the topic. What I can provide is an outline to whet your appetite to learn more:

  • The first apples probably appeared in the valleys of the Tien Shan Mountains, which lie between China, Kazakhstan, and Kirghizstan. From there, they spread and evolved around the Caspian Sea into domestic apple’s main ancestor, M. sieversii.
  • There are Paleolithic cave art showing wild apples that date from between 35,000 and 8000 B.C.E. In Anatolia, archeologists have dated carbonized remains of apples dating back to 6500 B.C.E., and also in Neolithic lake settlements from occupied between 2000 and 1600 B.C.E. in what is today Switzerland and Italy. This is all evidence that apples were in use.
  • Apples appear many times in Greek mythology. It was an apple that started the Trojan War, Heracles had to retrieve a golden apple from the Tree of Life which was planted as a wedding present from Mother Earth to Zeus and Hera, and Atalanta was bested in a foot race because she stopped to pick up three golden apples. Even Homer wrote about apples in the Odyssey.
  • Because writing had not been invented, we do not know who or when humans discovered cider. However, since apples will ferment due to wild yeasts, the discovery could be as old as apples themselves, and would have been repeatedly experienced in many locations.
  • Ben Watson reports, “The first recorded references to cider also date back to Roman times. In 55 B.C.E. Julius Caesar began his conquest of Britain, where his soldiers found the Celtic inhabitants fermenting the juice of native crab apples to make an alcoholic beverage.” The Romans were able to educate the Celts in better agricultural ways, including the importation of other apple varieties. The Roman’s vast network allowed for the sharing of materials and ideas across much of Europe and the regions around the Mediterranean Sea. For instance, they learned from the Greeks or Syrians the methods of grafting and pruning and would have taught the Celts.
  • Watson notes on page 18, “By the second and third centuries A.D., Roman authorities reported that various European peoples were making a number of more or less ciderlike drinks (pomorum), created from different types of fruit, that were reportedly similar to grape wines and in some cases superior to them. In the fourth century, Palladius wrote that the Romans themselves were making perry, or pear wine, and Columella listed thirty-eight different varieties of pears and twenty-four varieties of apples. Around the same time, Saint Jerome used the term sicera to describe fermented apple juice, from which we derive the word cider. Sikera was actually a Greek word meaning simply “intoxicating beverage,” and it comes in turn from the Hebrew word sekar (which some people also believe to be the root of the slang term schnockered.)”

To be continued on March 8, 2010…

My sources include:


2 Responses to “History of Cider Part I: Early Development”

  1. […] History of Cider Part I – Early Development […]

  2. […] apples, as I have mentioned, started in Kazakhstan, where they have wild apple tree forests today. They talked about how the apple spread, that a […]

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