The culture of the olive tree
The olive tree is one of the most ancient plants on Earth. No other plant proved so important and useful in classical antiquity, nor was it valued and honored by peoples as the olive tree was.
The olive tree has been known to man for at least 7000 years. Its cultivation began around 4,000 b.C., so the cultural development of mankind is closely linked to it. Archeologists have found olive pits that are at least 9,000 years old, and some fossilized olive leaves can be traced back to 60,000 years ago.
In ancient Greece the olive tree was sacred to the goddess Athena. Even Greek mythology tells us about its power. When deciding whether Poseidon or Athena would rule over Attica, Zeus chose the latter because she had caused an olive tree to grow among the rocks of the Acropolis of Athens. On the night He was captured in the Garden of Gethsemani, Jesus prayed to His Lord among olive trees. In ancient times the olive tree was a symbol of wealth, productivity and good luck, and olive twigs were usually regarded as a sign of victory and peace.
The origin of the olive tree cannot be defined accurately. Some findings place it in the Eastern regions of the Mediterranean See. For the Romans, who planted large olive orchards in Italy, Spain and Northern Africa, olive oil played a key role in economy.
An olive tree can live as long as 2,000 years. The one that is commonly thought to be the oldest in the world is located in Greece and appears to be about 5,000 years old. An elegant and dignified tree, it joins together the primeval forces of the four elements.