Throughout history, the olive tree has played a major role in shaping the Mediterranean culture and surround cultures. According to historians, the first known olive tree dated 20 Million years ago and was found fossilized near Livorno, close to Southern Italy. Although debated, it has been said that cultivation began in the fifth century B.C. around what was once known as the “fertile crescent”, eventually moving into Greece for the majority of its future production. From there, it grew in popularity with the rich and powerful and eventually began being traded and sold around the area.
As Greek colonies spread throughout the Mediterranean, cultivation of the olive tree eventually reached Italy, Spain, France, and Egypt. It was highly regarded by the wealthy and powerful and the branches of the olive tree were frequently used as a symbol of glory, wealth, power and peace. Its uses included everything from religious ceremonies to medicinal purposes to athletic rituals. As it spread throughout the regions, its popularity grew to the point that cutting down an olive tree could have been punishable by death.
The olive tree itself is extremely durable, able to withstand harsh summer droughts and brutal winters; its resistance was immortalized in ancient days. According to an Old Italian folk tradition, there are five ideal conditions for growing the olive tree. They are as follows: sun, stone, drought, silence, and solitude; the basic representation of extremely harsh conditions with little to no interference from outside sources. Letting nature run its course allows the olive tree to thrive and grow strong.
Eventually, the olive tree and its fruit has become a major staple for most of Europe, the Mediterranean region and throughout the world. The olive tree produces extremely nutritional and useful olive oil used worldwide in culinary practices. It also has become incorporated with beauty products such as cosmetics and soap as well as cleaning, polishing and other day-to-day uses. It is truly a tree that has stood the test of time and been in use since the beginning, becoming wide spread in today’s universal culture.