01 Jun

The Olive – A Tree Of History

The olive is possibly the oldest cultivated tree in the world. It is believed that people in the Mediterranean region were cultivating olive trees before written language was properly developed.

Certainly the ancient Egyptians had olive groves. From at least the time of Ramses II (1179 – 1165 BC),olive oil from the many groves aorund Heliopolis was being used to light the temple lamps. An inscription in one of the temples dedicated to the Sun God Ra tells us that this was so.

The Christian Bible mentions the olive in several places. It refers to the olive tree as “the tree of life,” and also as “the king of trees.” Noah, who survived the great flood in the ark, sent out a dove to see if there was any dry land. Eventually, the dove returned with an olive branch.

The Romans prized olive oil for its versatility. They used it as a sacred oil in religious rituals, as a healing ointment, and as a food source. The victors of Roman battles were often crowned with olive wreaths.

The city of Athens in Greece, according to legend, gained its name from the Athena, goddess of peace and wisdom. She was involved in a dispute with Poseiden, god of the ocean, about which of them would lend their name to the new city built in the land of Attica. A decision was made that the one who offered the most precious gift to the people of the city would have the honor.

Poseidon struck his trident into a rock, which caused copious amounts of salt to flow out. Salt is indeed a precious gift to any people. Athena plunged her spear into the ground. The spear became an olive tree, which lived for centuries and gave precious fruit to the people. It was decided that the olive tree was the more precious, so the city became known as Athens. In fact, legend has it that all the trees in Greece are descended from that first tree given by Athena.

People in any place in any time will only honor something if it is of great value to them. The many mentions of olives and the olive tree in history clearly indicates its value to the people in early times. Nothing much has changed. Today we have industrialized the harvesting of olives to a certain extent, and their popularity has spread all over the world. But the olive and olive oil has changed not one bit. It is still a good as it always was, and as good as it always will be.

Leave a Reply