The Olive Tree

The origin of the olive tree is lost in time, coinciding and mingling with the expansion of the Mediterranean civilizations which for centuries governed the destiny of mankind and left their imprint on Western culture.

It is estimated the cultivation of olive trees began more than 7000 years ago. It is among the oldest known cultivated tree in the world - bring grown before the written language was invented. People in the Mediterranean region have been using olive oil for thousands of years. When the olive was first used, or how people learned to extract it, is lost in the mists of time.

It has been said that the power of ancient Greece was made possible by the cultivation of the olive, which provided rich fruits from rocky countryside that could produce little else.

Greek Myths tell how a dove brought an olive leaf from Phoenicia to Athens, where it was planted on the Acropolis to become their first olive tree. The Greeks dedicated the olive to their goddess Athena: according to Greek mythology the olive was Athena's gift to mankind, thus winning the patronship of Attica from Poseidon, and Athens was named in her honor for this gift.

Aphrodisiac, cosmetic, unguent, magic potion ingredient and religious unction - since time immemorial, olives have been used for all these purposes, especially amongst Mediterranean cultures.

The leafy branch of the olive tree were used to crown the victors of friendly games and bloody wars. As emblems of benediction and purification, they were also ritually offered to deities and powerful figures; some were found in Tutankhamen's tomb.

Over the years, the olive has been the symbol of peace, wisdom, glory, fertility, power and pureness, since before Christian times; because the oil could be used both to heal human ills and to calm troubled waters. The ancient Greeks used to smear olive oil on their bodies and hair as a matter of grooming and good health.

The Bible, the Torah and the Koran are all full of reference to the olive. The first vegetation seen by Noah after the Deluge was the branch of olive brought back by the dove, and a dove bearing an olive branch has also been used in art as a symbol of peace.

The olive tree was considered to be the tree of balance by the Celts. For this reason they devoted the day of the 23rd of September to it as that particular date the day has the same duration as the night.

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