In the antiquity, Altis was the name of the sacred olive grove in Olympia from where the olive branch (kotinos) that decorated the winners of ancient the Olympic Games was cut.
According to the Greek tradition, the first olive tree was planted in the Acropolis. It is said that it was a gift from the goddess Athena to the citizens of Athens, when she argued with the god Poseidon over the name of the city of Athens. Then, as a token of their gratitude, the Athenians named their city after her and she taught them how to cultivate the olive tree. On their coins, the Athenians depicted Athena with an olive wreath on her helmet and an amphora with olive oil or an olive branch.
According to mythology, Elais was the goddess of olive oil, one of the Oenotropae (who changed materials into wine) and a favourite granddaughter of the god Dionysus. In fact, it was Dionysus who gave her the power to change water into wine and any other liquid into olive oil.
The king of Delos, Anius, and Dorippe had many children, among which were the three Nymphs of Delos, called Oenotropae. Their names, Oeno, Spermo and Elais, refer to the main elements of our nutrition, namely wheat, wine and oil; Dionysus offered them the gift to make all three to spring from the ground.
In Ancient Greece, the olive tree played a prominent role not only in nutrition but also in economy. They were considered a holy symbol of life, wisdom and prosperity.
The olive tree had multiple uses, since it was an integral part of the citizens’ life, such as:
- a main ingredient in their nutrition
- a prize in athletic games
- therapy (olive oil has 60 different uses in the Hippocratic code of medicine)
- cosmetic and fragrance
- heating and lighting