The Ancient Egyptians gave it to their slaves in order to give them more energy. The Ancient Greeks also appreciated its virtues, and the Romans always carried cloves of garlic with them for curing the infections that their legionnaires picked up on the battlefields.
It was the Romans who first associated it with the god Mars, believing that garlic was instilled with the the God’s masculine traits (a belief which lasted until the Middle Ages). It was in this period that it took on its magical qualities: garlic was used as a talisman, an aphrodisiac, and as an insecticide.
Much later, in the 19th century, Alexandre Dumas, in his Great Dictionary of Cuisine, explained how it was used in famous dishes such as Bouillabaisse. The author, however, tells us that its odor was often found to be disgusting: so much so that Alfonso of Castile ordered those knights of his who had eaten too much of it to be quarantined before they entered his court.
Over time, garlic came to be a main ingredient in many world-famous recipes, such as on bruschetta and in pesto Genovese, Piedmontese bagna cauda, and French and Spanish aioli, not to mention hundreds of oriental dishes. The great chefs love it too: Ferran Adrià has used it in a soft mousse, while George Blanc has created a caramelized version.