Salt has become an inexpensive and readily available commodity that is taken for granted by most people. But in older times, wars were fought over salt, and huge taxes were also levied on it. In some places, salt was in such high demand that it was minted into coins that were as valuable as gold and functioned as the basic currency for ancient civilizations.
Where salt was scarce it was traded ounce for ounce with gold-for as the Roman stateman Cassiodorus observed, 'Some seek not gold, but there lives not a man who does not need salt.'
Because everyone, rich and poor, craves salt, rulers going back at least as far as the Chinese emperor Yu in 2200 B.C. have tried mightily to control and tax it. Salt taxes helped finance empires throughout Europe and Asia, but also inspired a lively black market, smuggling rings, riots, even revolutions.
Pure salt consists of the elements sodium and chlorine. Its chemical name is sodium chloride and its formula is NaCl. Its mineral name is halite. Read more...
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