The history of Olive Oil is deep rooted throughout the cultures of the world, through beliefs, religions, and generations of great tasting food. Although you could spend years researching the olives history in depth, here is a quick look at Olive oil throughout history.
The olive tree is native to the Mediterranean basin; it’s not clear where or when olive trees were first domesticated, but researchers have said wild olives were collected by the Neolithic peoples as early as the 8th millennium BC. The wild olive tree is said to have originated in Asia Minor, which is today modern Turkey.
The first cultivation of olives and oil is said to have taken place in Crete. The earliest surviving oil pressing apparatuses found date back to the early Minoan times, around 3500 BC. Researches have found that olives were tuned into oil by 4500 BC by the Canaanites which is present day Israel.
Homer called olive oil “liquid gold.” The ancient Greek athletes rubbed oil on their bodies, and the olive oil was used for trophies for the winners. Olive oil has been used for more than just a food source for the peoples in the Mediterranean; its uses were medicinal, magical, and an endless source of fascination and wonder and the fountain of great wealth and power. Throughout history there have been many amazing merits of olive oil, the treating of leprosy, massaging the rough skin of elephants, boiling oil used as weapons by pouring it over the castle walls on attackers.
Olive oil has been used for many different uses, by the ancient people of the Mediterranean, all religious rituals, medicines, fuel for lamps, soap making, and skin care and beauty application. Olive oil has been used medicinally and medically for curing many ailments and deceases. Hippocrates recommended olive oil to cure ulcers, cholera, and muscular pain. Olive oil was considered an important antiquity throughout the trade networks in the ancient world; it has been their life’s blood as has been illuminated all throughout history since the beginning of humanity.
Olive oil was the principle product of trade for the Minoan civilization. Dynastic Egyptians imported olive oil from the Minoans, Syrians, and Canaan civilizations and oil was an important item of wealth and commerce. Olive trees growing reached Iberia and Etruscan cities well before the 8th century BC through trade with the Phoenicians and Carthage, and then spread into southern Gaul by the Celtic tribes during the 7th century BC.
The first oil extraction was known by the Hebrew bible and took place during the Exodus from Egypt, during the 13th century BC. It’s believed the olives were hand squeezed and stored in special containers under guard of priests. The olives came from the fertile land which today is Palestine, Lebanon, and Israel. Olive trees were planted in the entire Mediterranean basin during the evolution of the Roman Empire. Thus olive oil became very common in Hellene and Latin cuisine.
Legends & Mythology
According to legends & Greek Mythology, the city of Athens obtained its name by holding a contest to see which god or goddess would be the patron of the new city. Athena goddess of wisdom was challenged by Poseidon, god of the sea and horses, to provide the Greeks with the most useful and divine gift. Poseidon provided a spring of salt water gushing from a cliff, and Athena provided the olive tree. Athena was chosen by Zeus as the winner because she provided the most useful gift of the olive tree, noted for its fruit, oil, and wood and as the symbol of peace, wisdom and prosperity. Even today, an olive tree stands where the story of the legendary competition is believed to have taken place. The myth still lives on, as it is said that all the olive trees in Athens are descended from the first olive tree offered by Athena.
Olive oil, Religions & the Bible
Olive oil is also referenced 140 times in the Bible. Olive oil was sacred to Moses, Christ and Mohammad. In Genesis, an olive branch was returned to Noah on the Ark by a dove; a sign of the end of the great flood. The greatest significance of olive oil is documented in Exodus, where the Lord tells Moses how to make an anointing oil of spices and olive oil.
The Jewish people, having plenty of wine and olive oil, were a symbol of God’s favor. Oil was and still is a sign of God’s blessing, as it represents all that best in life and God’s generosity to the people he loves.
In the Christian churches, both western (Roman Catholic and Protestant) and eastern (Orthodox), olive oil is a symbol of god’s boundless generosity towards humankind and his never ending love.
Olive oil holds a special position in the Greek Orthodox religion, as a symbol of love and peace, olive oil is an essential part of several solemn rites, including baptisms.
In Islam, the olive tree is a symbol of Mohammad’s presence, and through the oils divine light brings men closer to Allah.
As you can see, the olive has transversed borders; infused itself with cultures throughout the world and graced the tables of the rich and powerful as well as the poor. Its embodied itself in rituals, religions and ideals that have held up through-out the test of time for thousands of years. We at Parthena wish to be part of this ever unfolding process by providing the finest Olive Oils, un-refined and unaltered in any way.