Facts & Fiction

Olive Oil has a history of care and nurture that goes back thousands of years


Olive Oil and its health properties are covered fully elsewhere but it has a history of care and nurture that goes back thousands of years. Here’s some more information about Olive Oil I’ve collected about its rich and varied place in legend and history:

Olive Oil as a cure

Early Middle East civilisations relied on Olive Oil to cure everything. To this day, many in the region drink the oil daily believing that it keeps the body running efficiently. Warm Olive Oil is commonly used in the west to soothe earache.

Ceremonial uses

Olive Oil is used widely for religious rites and rituals, such as in oil lamps, baptisms and at shrines, and has historically been used to anoint the heads of kings and nobles.

Roman weapons

Legend has it that in 86 B.C., Lucio Cornelio Silla, the Roman dictator, had all olive trees cut down and adapted for use as implements of war. Their destruction was interpreted as an omen of death, however the poet and politician Solone planted more olive trees and placed them under Zeus’ protection. Since then, no one has been able to destroy them.

Spartan Life & Death

The Spartans buried their dead on a bed of olive twigs to protect their souls. The olive tree was also used to protect the living, with those who attended funerals wearing crowns of olive branches to guard themselves against evil.

A Legendary Tree

Close to the walls of the old city of Jerusalem stands a legendary olive tree. The tree, with magnificent twisting roots and a solid trunk, is over two thousand years old, yet its evergreen foliage is as lush as that of a young tree. Ancient fable recounts that King David used to rest in its shade and play his lute. Since then, whoever spends time under the tree’s silver-leafed branches is said to be able to hear the strings of King David’s lute playing the sweetest music.

Athena & Poseidon

Legend has it that Poseidon, the sea god, and Athena, goddess of wisdom, competed to find the gift that would be most valuable to humankind. Poseidon offered the horse and Athena the olive tree, under which all ancient Greek gods are said to have been born. Because of its many uses – such as the provision of heat, food, medicine and perfume – the olive tree was chosen as the most valuable and in return for Athena’s contribution, the most powerful city in Greece was named Athens in her honour.

In Greece 500 B.C, Olive Oil’s revered status was further confirmed by an image of the goddess Athena, with her head crowned with Olive Oil, imprinted onto the Drachma, the Greek coin. At the time, the Drachma was the Mediterranean’s most circulated currency.

Noah’s Ark

In the story of Noah’s Ark in the Old Testament, the dove that was sent out by Noah after the flood came back to the Ark carrying an olive branch, which indicated that the waters were beginning to subside. It is thought that the notion of an olive branch as a symbol of peace and goodwill originated from this story.

Olympic Victors

In ancient Greece, winners of the Olympic Games were honoured with wreaths made of olive tree branches, and in ancient battles, olive branches were used to crown the victors.

Greek soldiers are said to have rubbed Olive Oil into their bodies to keep them warm at night as well as using it in their lamps for lighting.

Ancient Qualities that live on

Olive Oil was believed to bestow strength and youth, not least because of the tree’s longevity and its tremendous resilience. Even through the harshest summers and winters they continue to grow strong and bear fruit.