May 29, 2020
Olive oil has long been a common ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine, including ancient Greek and Roman cuisine. Wild olives, which originated in Asia Minor, were collected by Neolithic people as early as the 8th millennium BC.
Besides food, olive oil has been used for religious rituals, medicines, as a fuel in oil lamps, soap-making, and skincare application. The Spartans and other Greeks used oil to rub themselves while exercising in the gymnasia. From its beginnings early in the 7th century BC, the cosmetic use of olive oil quickly spread to all of the Hellenic city-states, together with athletes training in the nude, and lasted close to a thousand years despite its great expense. Olive oil was also popular as a form of birth control; Aristotle in his History of Animals recommends applying a mixture of olive oil combined with either oil of cedar, ointment of lead, or ointment of frankincense to the cervix to prevent pregnancy. It was burnt in the sacred lamps of temples and was the "eternal flame" of the original Olympic games. Victors in these games were crowned with its leaves.
The olive tree reached Greece, Carthage, and Libya sometime in the 28th century BC, having been spread westward by the Phoenicians. Evidence also suggests that olives were being grown in Crete as long ago as 2500 BC. The earliest surviving olive oil amphorae date to 3500 BC (Early Minoan times), though the production of olive oil is assumed to have started before 4000 BC. Olive trees were certainly cultivated by the Late Minoan period (1500 BC) in Crete, and perhaps as early as the Early Minoan. The cultivation of olive trees in Crete became particularly intense in the post-palatial period and played an important role in the island's economy, as it did across the Mediterranean. Remains of olive oil have been found in jugs over 4,000 years old in a tomb on the island of Naxos in the Aegean Sea.
Dutch archaeologist Jorrit Kelder proposed that the Mycenaeans sent shipments of olive oil, probably alongside live olive branches, to the court of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten as a diplomatic gift. In Egypt, these imported olive branches may have acquired ritual meaning, seeing that they are depicted as offerings on the wall of the Aten temple and were used in wreaths for the burial of Tutankhamen. It is likely that as well as being used for culinary purposes, olive oil was also used to various other ends, including as a perfume.
In an archaic Athenian foundation myth, Athena won the patronage of Attica from Poseidon with the gift of the olive. According to the fourth-century BC father of botany, Theophrastus, olive trees ordinarily attained an age around 200 years, he mentions that the very olive tree of Athena still grew on the Acropolis; it was still to be seen there in the second century AD; and when Pausanias was shown it, c. 170 AD, he reported, "Legend also says that when the Persians fired Athens the olive was burnt down, but on the very day it was burnt it grew again to the height of two cubits." Indeed, olive suckers sprout readily from the stump, and the great age of some existing olive trees shows that it was perfectly possible that the olive tree of the Acropolis dated to the Bronze Age. The olive was sacred to Athena and appeared on the Athenian coinage. According to Wikipedia.
Through all this time, olive oil remains a top ingredient and superfood. It is found all over the Greek cuisine and it is what gives everyone that taste of Greece! Greek olive oil is irreplaceable, with an exceptional taste and scent!