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.
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.
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.