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History of Olive Oil

ελαιόλαδο. Olive oil. The history of the oil wrapped within each tender Greek fruit is as rich as the taste and health perks in every drop.

From the Gods

Legend has it that the birth of olive oil stems from the ancient Greek gods. They knew it good to bless the lands of their people with savory spheres of olive oil and so swept their hands over the land - commanding it's trees to become ripe with them. In fact, Aristaeus, the God of Olive Growth, was worshiped for his protection over the olive plantations created to harvest this divine blessing.

The historic roots of the olive tree

The olive tree itself first sprouted in Asia Minor (i.e. Ancient Greece). Archaeological evidence suggests that olive oil began to be created as far back as 6000 BC. Evidence also hints at the eastern coastal region being heavily cultivated up until 1500 BC, with olives being grown in Crete as early as 2500 BC. There is no question that Crete olive trees were being cultivated by 1500 BC. The cultivation of this Greek gift intensified in the post-palatial period. In fact, it is by cultivating these golden orbs and their gentle moisture that the Greeks fueled their economy into days of splendor!

EVOO extractions and exports

Word quickly spread across ancient lands on the beauty and value of olive oil. In 2000 BC, dynastic Egyptians imported olive oil from Crete, as well as Syria and Canaan because of the value it held in wealth and commerce. The oil quickly become a staple item among the wealthy. Olive oil was one of the most exported items from Greece between 1600-1100 BC.

Several references to olive oil can be found in Tanakh, the canonical collection of Jewish texts (which form the basis of the Bible's Old Testament). In the telling of Noah's Ark, the olive tree is referenced when the dove returns to Noah with an olive branch from an olive tree, indicating the dove had come into contact with something not covered in water. Accounts on the Exodus from Egypt that took place in 13th century BC tell of how olives were squeezed by hand to extract the olive oil and store it in jars under guard of their priests.

Mention of olive oil and it's trees is also made on dozens of clay tablets found in the city of Aleppo, Syria.

Through frequent trade with Phoenicia (an ancient civilization that lasted for 800 years (1500 BC and 300 BC) along the coast of present-day Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Syria and Palestine) and Carthage (now part of the Tunisian Republic), growth of the olive tree expanded into Iberian and Etruscan cities in 8th century BC. The expansion continued in to Southern Gaul in 7BC by the Celtic tribes.

Olive trees were planted throughout every region that surrounded the Mediterranean sea (i.e the Mediterranean Basin) as the Roman empire emerged and expanded.

Ancient applications

Even in ancient days, olive oil was used for much more than only meal prep.

Religious rituals: Many religions are laden with olive oil including ancient Greek religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Medicines: Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician who is one of the most notable figures in medical history, cited over 60 medical uses for olive oil including treatment for skin conditions, wounds and burns, ear infections, gynecological conditions and tons of others. He deemed the substance so medically helpful that he dubbed it "The great therapeutic." This is no surprise given the oil's health benefits.

Athletics: Olive oil was applied to the bodies of Spartan and other Greek athletes before exercising at the gym or the different games held by the Athenians. The oil was so valued that it was given as a prize to winners of the Panathenian games.

Skin care applications: Using olive oil to clean their bodies was a luxury enjoyed by the wealthy in ancient Greece. There are several ways you can use olive oil today to make your skin and hair glow. This article can tell you more. We've even made lavender and unscented (perfect for dry and sensitive skin) EVOO soaps that enhance the vitality in your hair and skin with each scrub.

Grades of purity

There are many grades of olive oil that have been made since ancient days.

Many governing bodies have been formed to judge the level of purity in every drop. According to the International Olive Council and other sources, the grades of olive oil include:

Olive oil with an oleic acid level of more than 3.3/100 grams is not fit for human consumption.

EVOO: A rich history

The history of ελαιόλαδο is a rich one that spans for generations - much like our EVOO. We have upheld the quality and purity through keeping our olive trees on Greek soil, and adhering to ancient practices of cultivation that allow us to provide you with best-in-class EVOO.

May you taste EVOO's rich history with each drop that lands on your lips.