Citrus fruits have been present in the important events of mankind for thousands of years, from migration and conquests to the birth and development of new civilisations. The extraordinary characteristics of citrus fruits earned themselves countless symbolic, civic, religious and philosophical meanings over the centuries.
Citrus fruits have been found in gardens and art works through representations and symbolism since the dawn of Western civilisation. Although there are no reliable sources, it is likely that citrus fruits were already present in the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
The Ancient Greeks also knew of these plants according to Theophrastus' Enquiry into Plants, a text which dates back to IV century BC. The Romans knew of citrus fruits and grew citrons, though initially only as an ornamental plant. In a few mosques in Istanbul, you can still see early Christian mosaics related art depicting oranges and lemons.
The Arabs are credited with the spread of these fruits. From the VII to XI century, they brought bitter orange and lemon plants to all of the countries along the Mediterranean. Southern Italy uses some of the most complex orange cultivation methods in the Mediterranean which derive from the historic Arabian techniques.
The development of still life painting in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries focused on simple inanimate subjects and so the beautiful colourful citrus fruits were very popular in this art movement.