Saffron was already used in ancient times and different cultures. Long before the birth of Christ, the spice was known in Asia Minor. Pharaohs in ancient Egypt used saffron for seasoning and as an aphrodisiac. The Greek used it for its aromatic qualities and its colour; the expensive spice was even disseminated unto floors of theatres and public areas to give them a pleasant smell. Even emperors in ancient Rome bathed in water which was perfumed with saffron. Arabs introduced the spice in Spain in the tenth century.
The word ‘saffron’ stems from the Arab ‘zafaran’, meaning ‘yellow’. Not such a far stretch: dissolving saffron in water gives it that specific colour. In many other languages, the name has the same origin.