History of Olive Oil

Olive Oil

At Avlee Greek Kitchen we believe that the highest quality Olive Oil is an essential ingredient for our dishes.  We spare no expense and import our Olive Oil directly from Greece to provide the highest quality.  The history of olive oil is part of all of us.

Olive oil has stood as a staple of human diet since before the beginning of recorded history. As long ago as 8,000BCE, Neolithic man cultivated olive trees for their wood, their shelter, and their fruit. The first cuneiform and hieroglyphic tablets, used for trade in the ancient world, frequently mention the sale of olive trees and the types of pots that were designed to store olive’s oil in particular. Olives and their oil have been so revered by civilizations throughout the years that they commonly can be found in religious ceremonies, celebrations, and everyday life.

The ancient Minoans used olive oil in most of their religious ceremonies, and although they were unable to grow their own olive trees, the ancient Egyptians purchased large amounts of olive oil from Crete and Palestine for use by the wealthy as pharmaceuticals and to help with religious burial ceremonies. Mummies of important officials and nobility were coated in oil once wrapped, and many kings were buried with olive branches and clay pots of oil.

Just as a craftsman endowed with great skill, By Hephaestus and Pallas Athena, Overlays silverware with liquid gold, And completes a beautiful work of art, So Athena poured grace over his body.– Homer’s Odysseus bathing in Olive Oil after returning from his quest

Ancient Athens is fabled to have been named for its protector, the Greek goddess Athena, after they preferred her gift of an olive tree planted at the Acropolis over that of the god Poisidon’s gift of a salt water spring. The original Olympians rubbed themselves in olive oil before competing, and victors were bestowed olive branches and laurel wreathes. The healing powers of this oil were so important to the Greeks that their warriors bathed in it both before and after battle, and it was used frequently to help muscle recovery, skin and dental health, and in poultices designed to cure various ailments. The father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, called olive oil “the Great Healer,” and the poet Virgil associated the goddess of peace (Pax) with the symbol of the olive.  During the Greek and Roman empires, olive oil production became a major commodity and source of wealth, and was traded as far away as Gaul, Britain, and India. Thousands of ancient presses that are dated back to the Roman Empire have been found intact throughout all Mediterranean countries, some of which are still in use today.

History of Olive Oil

Today we still see the connection with this ancient love of olive oil. It is mentioned at several places in the Torah, the Bible, and the Koran, and olive oil is still used by Orthodox churches in their baptisms and Catholic churches in their ceremonial incense. Even the English word for oil comes from the ancient Latin word “oleum” and the Greek word “elaion” for olive tree. An olive branch is a universal sign for peace, and we still see olive oil used in soaps, fuel for oil lamps, skin care, cosmetics, and perfumes. Modern science is continuously discovering more about the wonders of this miracle food, proving what we have known for several millennia: good olive oil is an important part of any healthy and delicious diet.

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