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Economics

Salt: Mineral of Tyrants, Explorers and Revolutionaries

Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Scientifically, salt is an innocuous substance created when a sodium atom bonds with a chloride atom: NaCl. This simple definition belies the influence of a mineral that has substantially affected global economics, exploration and politics for centuries.

Salt’s early use as a food preservative enabled the establishment of humanity’s earliest trade routes, some of which stretched across entire continents. As a result, salt quickly became both a form of money and the basis of taxation. The ancient Greeks used salt to buy slaves (and originated the phrase “not worth his salt” to describe underperforming chattel). The Romans used salt to pay soldiers their “salarium,” resulting in our word “salary.”