Ancient Greece and the History of Olive Oil

The history of the olive and olive oil is a rich history that spans back many thousands of years, beginning with the history of the ancient Greek culture, with which it is as intimately connected, as is its association with the health of a person and the Science of Medicine, the father of which was the Ancient Greek scholar and doctor, Hippocrates.

Its importance is noted in the Ancient Greeks’ varying uses of the olive and olive oil.  For instance, the Ancient Greek Wise Men deemed the olive as the “Holy Tree,” with divine origin, power and supernatural attributes.

With its branches they Ancient Greeks made the Wreaths with which they decorated the Olympic champions, as an expression of highest honor both for the athletes’ admirable victories at the Olympic Games, but also for the modesty and grace which distinguishes all Olympians.  For this reason, the crown made from the branches of the “Holy Tree” was ideal for the ornamentation of Olympic medalists.

Also, through the written texts on the history of Ancient Greece, we have learned that Athens, the capital of Greece, was awarded its name from Athena, the goddess of Wisdom, after a battle with the god Neptune, which she had won following her gift to him of an Olive Tree.

And there are many more examples of the use of olives and olive oil that illustrate its importance both in Ancient Greece, and later in the Greek Orthodox Religion and Greek culture, including:

    In honor of the olive, the Ancient Greeks used it in the decoration of Vessels, Walls, gold jewelry, among other things
    The messengers of various states would hold an “Olive Branch” (an international symbol of peace) when they wanted to initiate a peace offering
    In the Holy Bible, the “olive” is referenced hundreds of times
    An Olive Branch was sent with a dove by God to Noah in order to notify him that the flood has finished
    Olive Oil was used to baptize children as well as to turn on the vigil candle (lamp) that burns in front in the icons of Saints, a tradition that is still maintained today

The mythic and great poet of Antiquity, Homer, called Olive Oil a “Golden Liquid” and the Olive the “Gold of the Ground,” which constituted then, and still constitutes today, a basic and irreplaceable nutritional component of Greeks, helping to protect health and aiding a person’s longevity.

The first and foremost Doctor of Medicine, Hippocrates, used the olive oil to cure hundreds of illnesses, as reported in ancient and modern medical texts.  In his honor, the international medical community set in practice that all graduates of medicine are sworn into the profession with the renowned “Hippocratic Oath.”

Modern scientific research studies conducted by prominent European and American Universities, confirmed Hippocrates’s beliefs and proved many of the therapeutic and nutritional attributes of olive oil, and the important role that it plays in our health, when consumed as part of a balanced diet.


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