For Greece and its people, the olive tree is more than a tree. It is culture, history, tradition and mythology.
It is a symbol of peace, knowledge, wisdom, abundance, health, strength and beauty.
The Greeks were the first people to cultivate olive trees in the European area of the Mediterranean region. The fruit, the oil and the branches of olives trees were used in trade, nourished generation after generation helping people grow healthily, and also provided longevity. To Greeks, the olive tree is a blessed, valuable gift of nature, connected with Greek history and culture. The olive tree fruit has been considered sacred since ancient times.
According to greek mythology, Zeus proposed a contest between Athena and Poseidon for the control of Athens.
The city was to be named after the deity who offered the most useful gift to its citizens. Poseidon struck his trident into the rock of the Acropolis, creating a salt-water spring, whilst Athena planted an olive tree. The citizens chose Athena’s gift and named their city Athens. This dramatic showdown between the two powerful Olympians was immortalized in stone, depicted on the West pediment sculptures of the Parthenon.
The rich symbolic meaning of olive was present in every aspect of Greek life, ever since ancient times up until today.
In Ancient Greece Olive trees were considered to be an aphrodisiac and a gift of an Olive tree for newly weds was customary, as was a feast of Olives on their wedding night. For ancient Greeks Olive trees represented fertility. It is often referred to as ‘the tree of eternity’ due its ability to thrive in all conditions, living for hundreds of years.
Even today, in agricultural regions of the country, when a child is born, an olive tree is planted. The olive tree and the child are to grow up together. When the child starts school at the age of 6, the olive tree is ready to give its first fruit. The olive tree will grow with the family, survive through time and will still be there for many generations to come, to remind us the continuity and the evolution of life.