The pomegranate was brought to the Agean, from Iran in the earliest days of sea travel and exploration.
Today it is found all over Greece - on trees and market stalls and in symbolic representations signifying fertility and good fortune.
The pomegranate - now the source of a popular packaged fruit juice - also features in the Greek myth of Persephone. There are various, slightly differing versions, of the story but here's the basics: Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and carried off to live in the underworld as his wife.
Persephone's mother, Demeter, went into mourning for her lost daughter and being the goddess of the Harvest, everything stopped growing. Anxious to prevent the world from dying, Zeus, the supreme god, ordered Hades to return Persephone.
There was one problem: the Fates had ruled that anyone who took any food or drink in the Underworld was doomed to remain there for eternity. Hades cunningly tricked Persephone into eating four pomegranate seeds - in some versions, six or seven seeds - as a result of which she was condemned to spend four months in Hades company every year.
During Persephone's annual vacation in the Underworld - surely the holiday from Hell! - Demeter mourns and the earth ceases to be fertile. Thus the seasons of the year were satisfactorily explained for the benefit of Greek agriculturalists.
The Qur'an instructs that pomegranates are grown in the gardens of paradise; while, in Jewish tradition, the pomegranate symbolizes righteousness since it is alleged to contain 613 seeds, corresponding to the 613 mitzvot (or commandments) of the Torah. Like Persephone's seeds, the actual number found in any one fruit varies considerably - as can be testified by anyone who has brought a pot of them from Marks & Spencer's over-priced, luxury, power-food counter!
Not to be outdone, the early Christians latched onto the pomegranate as a symbol of the fullness of Christ's suffering and resurrection - which inspired many classical painters such as Sandro Botticelli (right) to show the Virgin Mary and/or the Infant Jesus holding a fruit that is bursting open.
Today, in Greece, the Orthodox Church keeps the pomegranate's symbolism alive and shops sell pomegranate knick-knacks such as key-chain fobs. The fruit is also featured in the menus served on the religious feast days as well as at funerals and at weddings where a pomegranate is often broken on the ground.
When visiting a new home it is customary to take, as a first gift, a pomegranate that will be hung up on the wall to express a hope for an abundance of happiness and prosperity.
Goodness! I do hope you appreciate the fact that - even when I'm on holiday - I'm passing on valuable knowledge to my loyal blog-readers!
Images: Pomegranates on Telendos Island, Kalymnos, © Brian Sibley 2008; 'Madonna of the Pomegranate' by Sandro Botticelli (detail), 1487, exhibited in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence.