Olive Trees, between History and Legend

Origin of the Olive Tree

The beloved trees of the Olère farm have ancestors more than a thousand years old. Historians do not agree on the place of birth and spread of olive trees: the majority, however, argues that the olive tree was born in Asia some 6,000 years ago. Some believe that it was brought to Athens from Cecrops or Aristeus and then spread to Sicily, Sardinia, the rest of Italy and southern Europe; others, finally, consider it first arrived in France, in Marseilles, and was then grown in Gaul and Italy.

A different approach to the origins, however, wants that the cultivated olive tree, and therefore our domestic olive tree, comes from a wild species existing in ancient times in Sicily and Sardinia. In any case the olive-growing took concrete roots in Italy about 600 years before the Common Era, during the first centuries of the founding of Rome, spreading from the coast towards inland areas.

I set apart
Olive oil,
Your ever-flowing peace, your green essence
Your heaped-up treasure which descends
In streams from the olive tree.

— Pablo Neruda

Olive Trees in Religion, Mythology and Literature

Countless tales, myths and poems testify to the symbolic importance that the olive tree has played and plays in the collective imagination. The Bible tells how the dove, after the Great Flood, brought exactly an olive branch (Genesis 8:11). Jesus withdrew to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane (an Aramaic word that means “mill”) before being crucified, and legend has it that the straight trunks of olive trees became so twisted right then to rebel against those who wanted to use them to build the cross and therefore becoming unsuitable for that purpose.

Greek mythology, however, tells of a contest between Athena and Poseidon for giving their name to a city of Attica: Zeus decreed that he would win who had made ​​the greatest gift and the goddess of wisdom chose the olive tree, the symbol of peace, able to feed, to give light and heat. She won the challenge and the city was named Athens. In more recent times, the olive trees have inspired poets such as Pascoli, D’Annunzio and Montale who sang their beauty and quality in their poems.

It makes us happy and proud to know that our trees in Olère have such a glorious tradition behind them.