Ancient Greece and Olives
The Olive has been a huge part of life in Greece since the ancient years. Indeed, one could reasonably assert that the whole of Greek civilization was established upon the branches of this humble tree. Its nourishment has kept people alive, its oil used in lanterns illuminated the dark, its bark –when burned – kept people warm and even its twigs and leaves provided people with mattresses.
In Ancient times olive wood was used for architectural purposes and to make tools. The Oil as a commodity had a major economical importance too; it was what the whole Greek trade was based upon - it is a historic fact that when at war, the first thing the Spartans did was to burn the olive groves of Athens, sometimes fatally weakening their opponents. Another historical example of this importance - is when Athens’ own crop failed, the Athenians voted to honor a foreign merchant who sold them 56.000 liters of oil.
Aside from (and because of) its practical aspects, the olive tree gained a mythical dimension. The Goddess ‘Athena’ was believed to have gifted an olive tree to the Athenians which grew next to the Acropolis, presumably in honor of the city state’s devotion to her. Another myth states that it was Hercules who brought the first olive tree from the heavens. Homer refers to olive oil as ‘liquid gold’ and Aristotle argued that the cultivation of olive trees is a science. According to Hippocrates, olive oil was used in ancient Greece for more than 60 pharmaceutical applications, including the healing of skin problems, of stomach pains and of ear infections.
The olive tree was a big part of all rituals in ancient Greece; olive oil was poured on the ground as a sacrifice to the Gods and was rubbed on athletes bodies before they took part in the Olympics. An olive branch was used as a symbol of peace whenever the Greeks entered into truce with their enemies and was the awarded to any athlete who won at the Olympics.
The symbol of the olive tree has very deep roots in Greek tradition; it symbolizes wealth, health, beauty, wisdom and abundance. Its importance has never faded and its nutritional and pharmaceutical value is now recognized throughout the whole of the modern world.
photo By Raptor Alpha