The Blessed Olive Tree that Never Dies

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The olive tree was a gift of the gods to the Greeks. Goddess Athena planted the first olive tree on the acropolis at the center of Attica. The grateful Greek inhabitants of Attica honored the goddess by naming their polis Athena (Athens). The affection was mutual. Athena adopted and protected Athens. The citizens of Athens venerated Athena with elaborate Olympic-like games and festivals. They also built and dedicated their greatest temple, the Parthenon, to Athena.

The sacred olive tree flourished throughout Greece and the Mediterranean. Its olives and oil have been nutritional and medical food for millennia.

Greeks ate olives and oil in cooking. They used oil for their lamps, lighting their homes and temples and altars. The Greeks also made perfumes from oil. Some of those perfumes, exported all over the Mediterranean in the delicate and beautiful glass containers known as “aryballoi,” were aphrodisiacs. But olive oil was fundamental for sports and bathing. Athletes rubbed themselves with oil, their bodies becoming like shining statues of gods. Women bathed and anointed their bodies with oil. Greeks in Athens and Olympia also used olive wreaths to crown their victorious athletes.

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