A long time ago Athena, goddess of peace and wisdom, had a disagreement with Poseidon, god of the sea, over who was to give their name to the growing cultural city of golden-age, Attica.
Using her female wisdom, Athena allowed him to decide how the disagreement was to be settled. As a trial to challenge his intellect, she cunningly left it to Poseidon to propose a solution that would end the disagreement. Cautious and wary, he created a solution by which he was sure he secured an advantage; he decided that the city would take the name of the god who offered the best gift to the residents of Attica. Athena consented.
Myth and tradition hold that mighty Poseidon threw his trident against the rock surface of the Acropolis mount, whereupon cool clear water gushed from marble stone in a spring-like fashion. Athena, somewhat impressed with the gift, decided to out-match Poseidon. At the spot where the Erechtheion Temple of the Acropolis now stands, she struck the ground with her magical staffed-spear whereupon a mature fruit-bearing olive tree instantly sprouted.
Both agreed with citizens of Attica that the olive tree was a more valuable gift, since it could multiply and therefore yield wood and olives to provide heat, light, cosmetics, food and medicines to the masses for a long time.
The statue of Zeus now standing near that spot commemorates this great solution that yielded Athena’s gift to the people and resulted in the city bearing her name.
You may already know that the proverbial “olive branch” has always been a symbol of peace and reconciliation mentioned in the both Testaments of the Bible. At the junction of olive oil myth and solemn divine liturgy lies the story which claims that Herakles brought the first wild olive tree to Greece. It is said he transported an olive tree from the banks of the Danube and transplanted it at Olympia. The trees enjoyed their new climate and spread throughout Greece.
Science claims the wild olive tree pre-dates the version provided above, as the Mediterranean region is littered with fossilized olive leaves, carbon-dated to at least 60,000 years ago. The earliest written references to olive oil production – found in Syria and Palestine – date back to the 3rd century BC.
Durable wreaths for Olympic victors were made from Olympian olive trees. Athletes of the ancient world of the Minoan and Mycenean periods smothered their bodies in olive oil before and after training and competitive events, supposedly to cleanse and enrich their bodies.
Olive oil has been an irreplaceable food for Greeks for centuries. With almost a million olive trees in Greece, it is no wonder that Greece stands as one of the world’s leading exporters of olives and olive oils. Olive oil is an integral part of the history, economy and culture of most Mediterranean nations. But for Greeks, olive oil is a way of life. Greeks are the greatest consumers of olive oil. More than 70% of all fats consumed by Greeks is derived from olive oil.
In modern societies, as in ancient developed civilizations, olive oil has been proven to be wonderfully nutritious as a supplement to healthy balanced meals. Balanced meals are key to guaranteeing a longer life with sustained health, which goes a long way toward providing energy and a positive psychological sense of well-being.
You probably have seldom given olives this much thought. Yet each olive and every ounce of olive oil you savor on your Nectar & Ambrosia tour experience originates from these and other mythological mysteries of Greece.
You now know “part” of the story. The rest awaits your discovery.