Apples in Classical Times

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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The first written mention of apples, in Homer’s Odyssey, is not specific, since the Greek word melon is used for almost any kind of round fruit which grows on a tree. Thus the legendary ‘apples’ of Greek myth—given by Paris to Aphrodite, or thrown down by Hippomenes to distract Atalanta, or growing in the Hesperides—may have been other kinds of fruit, or no particular kind at all.

In later Greek writings a distinction was made between the apple and the related quince, which had been growing in the E. Mediterranean region before the arrival of the apple. The ‘apples’ with which the Shulamite in the Song of Solomon asked to be comforted would probably have been quinces. The Hebrew word used, tappuach, meant ‘apple’ later, but not necessarily then.