Ancient Greece and the History of Olive Oil
The importance of olive and olive oil is noted in the Ancient Greeks’ varying uses in everyday life. For instance, the Ancient Greek Wise Men deemed the olive as the “Holy Tree,” with divine origin, power and supernatural attributes.
Through the written texts on the history of Ancient Greece, we have learned that Athens, the capital of Greece, was awarded its name from Athena, the goddess of Wisdom, after a battle with the god Neptune, which she had won following her gift to him of an Olive Tree.
With its branches the Ancient Greeks made the Wreaths with which they decorated the Olympic champions, as an expression of highest honor both for the athletes’ admirable victories at the Olympic Games, but also for the modesty and grace which distinguishes all Olympians. For this reason, the crown made from the branches of the “Holy Tree” was ideal for the ornamentation of Olympic medalists.
The mythic and great poet of Antiquity, Homer, called Olive Oil a “Golden Liquid” and the Olive the “Gold of the Ground,” which constituted then, and still constitutes today, a basic and irreplaceable nutritional component of Greeks, helping to protect health and aiding a person’s longevity.
In the 6th century BC, Solon, the great Athenian legislator, drafted the first law for the protection of the olive tree excluding the uncontrolled felling. The olive tree was a symbol in ancient Greece and the olive oil was used not only for its valuable nutritional quality but also for medical purposes.
The first and foremost Doctor of Medicine, Hippocrates, used the olive oil to cure hundreds of illnesses, as reported in ancient and modern medical texts. In his honor, the international medical community set in practice that all graduates of medicine are sworn into the profession with the renowned “Hippocratic Oath.”
Modern scientific research studies conducted by prominent European and American Universities, confirmed Hippocrates’s beliefs and proved many of the therapeutic and nutritional attributes of olive oil, and the important role that it plays in our health, when consumed as part of a balanced diet.
And there are many more examples of the use of olives and olive oil that illustrate its importance both in Ancient Greece, and later in the Greek Orthodox Religion and Greek culture.