Products such as cheese were discovered accidentally. Primitive forms of cheese have been made since the earliest domestication of animals and became a great way to preserve milk.
Homer gives the first description, although brief, of cheese. In the Odyssey (IX. 221-225), Cyclop Polyphemos is described making cheese with sheep’s and goat’s milk. It was propably a fresh cheese, although in the Iliad hard cheese is mentioned as well. In later ancient sources, χλωρός (chloros), a soft fresh cheese, is mentioned very frequently. Euripides (Cyclops, 136) calls by the name opias the cheese which was curdled with fig-milk (opos). Fine heat-curdled cheeses, made with the fisrt milk, are eaten from classical times to nowadays.
Classical Athens imported the fine goat’s cheese of Tromilia, an Achaian city (Peloponnesος) and the famous cheeses of Sicily. Athenians also ate the Kythnios tyros, one of the best ancient cheeses, which was made in the island of Kythnos. It was produced from sheeps’ milk, a delicious milk because the farmers of Kythnos used leaves from fig and olive trees, legumes and straws to feed their animals.
Cheese making and trade flourished during the Byzantine Empire. Vlachian cheese, fat cheese from Crete, and the soft, fat and salty anthinis tyros (blossom cheese), are mentioned among the most tasty cheeses of that period. Myzethra was a rather cheap, saltless soft whey cheese, after which the City of Myzethras > Mystras was named.
The ancestor of feta is first recorded in Byzantine times, under the name prósphatos. It was associated specifically with Crete. In 1494, an Italian visitor to Heraklion described the storage of feta in brine. Under the Venetian occupation, Crete exported great quantities of this cheese.
The majority of ancient and byzantine cheeses were traditionally made with sheep’s or goat’s milk or a combination of the two. Byzantines used buffalo’s milk as well.
Till 19th century Greeks employed the milky juice of the fig and the rennet from the stomach of ruminating animals to curdle milk. Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) says about this way: ‘The fig-juice is first squeezed out into wool; the wool is then washed and rinsed, and the rinsing put into a little milk, and if this be mixed with other milk it curdles. Rennet is a kind of milk, for it is found in the stomach of the animal while it is yet suckling (History of animals, 3.20).
Now, most cheeses are curdled by bacteria and lab- created rennet.