top of page

History of Olives

The classic olive is olea europaea, a member of the oleales family, a small order of flowering plants that include the jasmine and the lilac. Closely related are trees such as the ash tree and number of other hardwood trees.

About 6000 B.C. inhabitants of Asia Minor discovered that wild olive shoots could be grafted, replanted and domesticated. Both Greeks and Egyptians cultivated the trees and revered them. The trees were most certainly domesticated by the time of the formation of modern civilization occurred (which is thought to have been about 4,000 B.C.) within the Golden Triangle -- the intersection of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers which is now in modern day Iraq about 250 miles south of Baghdad. From there they were spread north into the Mediterranean basin and south into what is now called the Middle East.

Olive Oil

It was the Greeks who raised the olive and its oil to a place in their culture which was unrivaled by any other substance, food or plant. Greek mythology describes the goddess Athena who produced the olive tree which gives light and delicious oil, shade for rest and a very hard and valuable wood. Additionally, the olive tree itself is almost indestructible, and will continuously regenerate itself whenever it is damaged. Some trees are still producing fruit with recorded history of over twenty-three hundred years of continuous production.

Athena became the patron of Attica, and her gift, the City of Olive, was planted atop the Acropolis. This orchard regenerated itself after the invading Persians torched it. Its offshoots were planted throughout Grecian empire and harming an olive tree was decreed to be a capital offense. Throughout Greece, the olive branch and olive oil became symbolic of all that was good and noble in mankind, and significant for its permanence and its perseverance.

Olive oil became very important to everyday life in the Greek city state. Travelers rubbed their feet with it before walking long distances, athletes bathed in it before games and anointment with olive oil became a sign of great respect. The birth of a male child was announced with an olive wreath on the front door. Finally, the olive branch became the emblem of supplicants and heralds and is therefore symbolic of non-violence and harbingers of good things to come.

As time marched on, the olive and its oil became the cultural inspiration to the great civilizations that developed around the Inner Sea: Assyrian, Egyptian, Greek, Persian, Roman. The olive branch became a universal sign of peace and olive oil became a universally accepted form of currency being traded, as cash is today, in beautiful clay urns bedecked with frescoes, bas-reliefs, and mosaics and even carved silver Roman vases.

All three of the major religions that spring from the Mediterranean area - Judaism, Islam and Christianity - hold olive oil in a sacred place for anointing ceremonies.

The Greek word chrism means "to anoint with oil" and is the derivation of the word "Christ."

Throughout history olive oil has been important as a source of energy for lighting and cooking, as a curative, and as a nutritional supplement. First Texas Olive Oil Company is proud to have planted their orchard in a traditional design and will continue this long and beneficial history.

bottom of page