The History Of Olive Oil In Ancient Greece

  • by XpatAthens
  • Monday, 29 August 2016
The History Of Olive Oil In Ancient Greece
Olive oil is always present at the Greek table and nearly every dish Greek cooks prepare uses this highly prized oil.

According to legend, Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, is responsible for giving Athens the olive tree as a gift. It is unclear in some of the re-telling of this story whether other parts of Ancient Greece already had the olive tree or not. However, the story shows that the olive tree was highly important to the people of Ancient Greece.

In the legend, Athena and Poseidon were in competition over who would have the new city-state named after them. Poseidon struck the ground with his staff and gave the Athenians the gift of flowing salt water. Athena struck the ground with her staff and it turned into an olive tree.

Since the olive tree provided wood, nourishment, and trade, she won. The olive tree became a symbol of peace because of this victory.

Even though Athena is credited with giving the Athenians the gift of the olive tree, it is really the Early Minoan Civilization on Crete who displays evidence of being the first to cultivate the olive tree in 3500 BC.

Over time, the Minoans on Crete perfected the process of cultivating the tree and it became an important part of their culinary tradition and also helped generate income through trade. They were the first to export olive oil to both Africa and the Middle East.

The Ancient Greeks understood that olive oil was highly nutritious. Therefore, top philosophers and physicians in the 7th century BC in Ancient Greece explored the use of olive oil as medicine. Hippocrates, for example, used it for various things when he was treating his patients. Nowadays, olive oil is used to help with digestive problems, skin conditions, coughs, sore throat, congestion, and other respiratory complaints.

It’s also considered a health cure and essential beauty aid. The oil is used to combat dry skin, control frizzy hair, and even soothe irritated skin. It even played an important part in the Olympic games by becoming a symbol of the games themselves and part of the award given to winners. The olive tree, therefore, was not only important in history, but it also is still highly important today.

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