The Phoenicians started colonial vineyards in the areas of Malaga and Valencia (Spain), and in Corinth (Greece). About this same time, the Armenians founded their vineyards in Persia (Turkey, Iran, Iraq). These bountiful growing areas had the perfect climate for making raisins and were also close to Greece and Rome, the first markets for raisins. Muscat raisins, oversized with seeds and a fruity full flavor, were the primary crop in Malaga and Valencia. Currants, tiny seedless, tangy raisins were planted in Corinth, Greece, where historians believe they got their name.
The Phoenicians and Armenians then began to trade raisins with the Greeks and the Romans who consumed them in large quantities. As the popularity of the raisins grew, so did their value. They were given as prizes in sporting events, used as barter to trade, and used as a cure for what ails you. Ancient physicians prescribed raisins as potions that could cure everything from mushroom poisoning to old age. Emperor Augustus feasted on small birds stuffed with raisins. Even Hannibal had raisins in his troops’ rations when he crossed the Alps.