A History of Olive Trees

History of Olive Trees

The history of Olive trees goes back at least 6,000 to 7,000 years, when the distant ancestors of the trees we grow today are thought to have originated in Persia and Mesopotamia.

“Long before it was food, olive oil beautified the body, cured ills, and fed the soul. Olives have permeated every Mediterranean culture from prehistory to last week. Aristotle philosophised about them, and Leonardo invented a way to press them. Egyptian pharaohs were sealed into pyramids with golden carvings of Olives.

Greeks used so much oil to lubricate their athletes that they devised a curved blade the ‘strigil’ to scrape it off.
To Muslims, as to Christians and Jews, the Olive means wisdom, fertility and peace.

People who live among Olive Trees tell you their air is pure and their lives are full. On her 121st birthday, Jeanne Calment of Arles, France, had a simple answer when asked how she survived to be the world’s oldest living person: olive oil. It appears in nearly every meal she eats and each day she rubs it into her skin, ‘I only have one wrinkle’ she said ‘and I’m sitting on it!’”

– Extract from Mort Rosenblum, ‘Olives: The life and lore of a noble fruit’.

Ancient Greece
Olive oil or “liquid gold” was of huge importance to the ancient Greeks.

The Olive – The Painter’s Tree

Renoir: Olive Grove in Cagnes, France
Renoir: Olive Grove in Cagnes, France.

Aldous Huxley observed in his essay ‘The Olive Tree’ that the olive tree is the painter’s tree. He wrote:

“Under a polished sky the olives state their aesthetic case without the qualification of mist, of shifting lights, of atmospheric perspective, which give to the English their subtle and melancholy beauty……The Olive does not need to be transposed into another key, and it can be rendered completely in terms of pigment that are as old as the art of painting.”

Olive trees, declared Van Gogh, are “too beautiful for me to conceive of it or dare to paint it”. However he went on to paint many pictures of Olive Groves, as did Renoir and Cezanne.

Van Gogh Olives
Van Gogh: “ It is too beautiful for me to… dare to paint it”.

Long Live The Olive!

Many Olive trees in the groves around the Mediterranean are thought to be centuries old. Some olive trees up to 2000 years old.

Olive oil has long been considered sacred. The Olive branch is often used to signify abundance, glory and peace.

The Olive is often mentioned in the Bible and it was an olive leaf that a dove carried back to Noah on the Ark. The olive tree and olive oil are also mentioned in the Quran.

Explore here our huge range of beautiful Olive Trees for sale.

More information

Where to grow your Olive Tree
How hardy is an Olive Tree?
Feeding Your Olive Tree
Pruning your Olive Tree
Pests and Diseases

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