The Blessed Olive Tree that Never Dies

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Laws of the great seventh-century BCE Athenian legislator Solon punished the destroyers of olive trees with death. Solon was convinced the sacred olive and its oil could heal just about everything. The fifth century BCE tragic poet Sophocles praised the “blessed tree that never dies.” The gray-leafed tree, he wrote, nourishes people — and Zeus and Athena guard it with sleepless eyes.

The olive tree remains a blessing in Greece. Its fruit and oil are at the heart of Greek survival, diet, trade, and culture.

During WWII rural people with olives did not go hungry. My father hid his wheat flour and olive oil from the German and Italian occupiers. He buried large stone containers full of wheat flour and oil. He sent some oil and flour to relatives in Athens and those relatives did not starve.

When I was a child, we used olive oil to light our home. Our oil lamps did not differ much from those of Homeric Greece.

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