The olive tree is a metaphor for the Garden of Eden and perhaps life itself. It tempts us with its fruit, which many consider to be the "forbidden fruit" that Eve succumbed to. It releases its oil, so amazingly useful for lamp light in the ancient world and for cooking throughout history. It is said that Athena planted the first olive tree on Mount Olympus itself--its descendant can still be seen there today. The olive was cultivated before there was written language--about 6000 years ago--and spread from Asia Minor to Iran, Syria, Palestine, Greece, Italy, France, Spain and across Northern Africa. Olives have been found in Egyptian tombs from 4,000 ago.
The Romans used the oil not only for light and cooking, but for preserving food and cleansing their bodies. They bathed in it, washed their bodies with it and then scraped away dead skin. They drank it as a curative and swished it in their mouth to clean their teeth. Mothers used it to heal their babies rashes and to sooth their nipples from breast feeding. It was used to keep hair healthy and beautiful. It moisturized their skins and hands after a hard day of labor. The oil was also used to Olive oil can clean and waterproof leather coats, boots and belts. The oil polished wood furniture and shine brass. The military used to to polish their helmets, swords and shields. It was also used as a lubricant on chariots and carts.
The average lifespan of an olive tree is 500 years. In Greece, Spain and in southern Italy, you may come across threes that are estimated to be from 1000-3000 years old. These ancient trees grow outward from the center, with their inner trunks rotting away, often leaving an intricate pattern on the outer surfaces, somewhat looking like a lattice pattern. On older trees, the center can be completely gone, leaving a hollow interior large enough for a person to step inside. Still on others, one ancient tree might look life two or more trees growing around an empty void in their center. Often they can look like people trapped in their growth... faces, arms and legs and human muscles.
Their beauty is memorizing to me, often making me think of them as old sages or time travelers, with me wondering what history they have seen as the millennia marches by. We can only be humbled by their muscular and impressive stature...
Copyright 2017 - Jerry Finzi/Grand Voyage Italy - All Rights Reserved