Salt, which is the most basic spice, was not commonly found or affordable in ancient or medieval times. Salt was one of the essential items to be stored as strategic materials in a castle. It was also a major product for commerce and trade. Naturally, salt production sites were considered as highly important strategic locations.
In the Age of Discovery, spice wars were much larger and more global than wars over salt. Pepper, which was introduced to ancient Rome, was transported by land. With the Age of Discovery, various spices produced in Southeast Asia could be shipped using merchant vessels.
The prices of spices vary by era and type but the prices of pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, and other famous ones were comparable to that of gold in their glory days. Spices were the driver behind powerful European countries’ marine investment. Highly valuable products were needed to justify the huge costs and sacrifices required to deploy fleets to Southeast Asia traveling across Africa and the Indian Ocean. Spices fit the bill better than anything else.
It was a time when there wasn’t much difference among merchants, soldiers, and pirates. The vessels of European countries arrived in Southeast Asia and waged wars over the production sites of spices and the rights to trade them. The wars became international as not only European countries but also the pirates of native kingdoms, China, and Japan got involved.
Spies, unlike salt, are not necessities for survival. However, they caused more bitter international conflicts than salt did. It was claimed later that nutmeg prevents the Black Death and cures all diseases but the facts don’t change fundamentally. How can we interpret this irony?
It seems that human lives don’t deviate much from food, clothing, and shelter. These are the initial necessities of life but also can be the conditions for wealthier lives, as well as the items to show off oneself and authorities. Craving a nicer house, more elegant interior, and richer food is the basic desire of humans and sometimes leads to wars, ruthless oppression, and nasty crimes.