What I found most original in Spice: The History of a Temptation by Jack Turner was the chapter titled "Food of the Gods." Greek and Roman temples were full of the aroma of spices, as incense burning in braziers or in perfumes and unguents rubbed on statues and worshipers. The Greek gods from earliest times insisted on aromas of spice and cooked meat -- Paris's promise to Helen is "Wherever you are, the flames will offer up cinnamon, and a sacrificial victim will strike the bloodied earth." (Cited from Ovid p. 228.)
"When Julius Caesar entered Rome in a triumphal procession in 46 B.C., he was flanked by attendants bearing censers of sweet-smelling perfumes." The elite viewed with outrage this appropriation of a ritual that should have been for the gods (p. 230).
In the East, rituals and games dedicated to the gods used cinnamon, spikenard, saffron, myrrh and frankincense. Turner describes Egyptian, Syrian, and Assyrian religious uses of spice, and even mentions an Egyptian spice god about whom little can be discovered.
Biblical references to spices include Exodus 30.22-23, where Moses is told to make a holy anointing oil of myrrh, cinnamon, calamus, cassia, and olive oil (cited p. 241). The queen of Sheba gave spices to King Solomon. Adam longed for the aroma of Paradise. But Jeremiah and Isaiah condemned sacrifices and the use of incense. In both the First and Second Temples, though, spices continued in use as incense and for anointing the priests -- Josephus noted that the high priest was anointed with cinnamon (p. 245). Incense shovels are part of the Temple imagery in later synagogue mosaics.
"Even to this day," Turner states, "Judaism may remain a faint reminder of spices' sacral past. Spices are still used in the Havdalah ceremony marking the end of the Sabbath.... The precise origins of the custom are impossibly obscure; however, it is at least clear that the practice was current by the early third century A.D." (p. 245)
Turner then describes how early Christians rejected the use of aromas of incense and perfumed oil, but the practice soon came back to the church. Later, in the Middle Ages, monks abstained from spiced food as part of their ascetic practices, and often ranted about those who violated their proscriptions. These descriptions of spices as a part of religious practice are definitely the most fascinating part of this book.
Every book about spice seems to have an obligatory chapter on the era of Columbus, the voyages in search of the spice islands of the East, and the conquest of those islands. Every time I read this repetition, I get impatient. Spice begins in the same too predictable way. Turner's next chapters on the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, and on Medieval uses of spice were interesting at times -- I did learn a few things from them. Information on early medical uses of spice and traditional uses of spices as aphrodisiacs was relatively unusual. But much of this material also seemed to me a repeat of other books and articles I have read. Only in the last few chapters about spice and religion did the book become really interesting.