The contribution of olives to world culture and civilization extends far beyond the table, where it usually appears in the form of olive oil, canned or dried. Without the unsightly junk-like fruits of Olea europaea (cultivated olive), antiquity would probably have lasted much longer, and it is not clear exactly how it would have developed.
It is certain that it was the oil (olive oil) used for lighting in the first lamps that prolonged the day, ie. it has extended that part of the day in which man thinks and works, creates goods or plans mischief, and generally makes a civilization. Thus, in a sense, the olive has accelerated social time. Asia Minor is indicated as the place of its origin, but it is not clear exactly when its cultivation began. It seems that in Palestine, Mesopotamia and North Africa this happened at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC, and in Greece it was transferred during the Homeric era. Probably people learned to extract wood oil before appreciating the taste of the fruit. In their raw state, they contain the substance oleopropein, which makes them unpleasantly bitter. In the Bible, oil is mentioned almost as often as bread and wine, but eating olives is almost non-existent. Today, the olive branch continues to symbolize peace along with the white dove. The root of this symbol is in the Old Testament. After the Flood, Noah released a dove to see if the bird would reach land. "The dove returned in the evening, and behold, he had a fresh olive leaf in his beak." (Gen. 8:11) Here it appears as a sign of reconciliation between man and God, a sign of the new covenant that God made with Noah. But this is only the beginning of her complex role as a mediator between man and his creator. The Lord evidently valued her highly because she said to Moses, "And command the children of Israel to bring thee pure oil, squeezed from the olive trees, for light, that the lamp may burn always." (Exodus 27:20)
He also clearly likes the smell of overheated olive oil because he explicitly emphasizes, "The sacrifice must be prepared in a pan, with oil soaked in oil." (Lev. 6:21). Since the olive is a sign of God's mercy, man, as created in His image and likeness, had to show mercy through its fruits. Deuteronomy 24:20) According to a biblical parable, the olive itself was aware of its special significance. Once the trees went to look for a king and offered her the crown, to which she replied: "Should I leave my fat, which honors gods and men, and go wandering in the trees?" (Judges 9: 9) For its special role in Christianity, suffice it to say that olive oil is a major ingredient in the holy anointing, which is the most important attribute in the most sacred sacrament, holy baptism. In the ancient Greeks, the olive was also a sacred tree. It is dedicated to Athens - the goddess of wisdom and spiritual light. In Rome, this cult was transferred to Minerva. Exactly when olive cultivation began in the Mediterranean is difficult to establish. It is certain that its distribution moved from east to west, and by the time of the Roman Empire, olive groves were already a common sight on the coasts of Gaul and Spain, and olive oil was a major export commodity.
The Roman historian Fenestella (1st century BC) notes that at the time of Tarquinius Priscus, the fifth of the Roman kings (6th century BC), the olive was not yet known in Italy. Hesiod (VIII century BC) in "Deeds and Days" mentions it as an extremely slow-growing tree. "In order to pick fruit, your grandfather must have planted it." Nine centuries later, this statement puzzled Pliny the Elder, who in "Natural History" mentioned a dozen varieties of olive oil and food and gave the most detailed information about the cultivation of trees and the production of wood oil. Before him, Cato (2nd century BC) and Columella (1st century BC) described in detail the methods of transplanting olive trees, producing olive oil and marinating olives so that they could be removed. their bitterness.
Their writings leave no doubt that the olive has long been one of the main products in the life of ancient man. According to Pliny, nearly 2 liters of olive oil were once extracted from 5 kg of olives, but researchers strongly doubt these data. The normal yield is 1: 8 and in very rare cases is higher.
In the technological development of Greece and Rome, the olive has another remarkable contribution. The need to first grind green and hard fruits and then squeeze them with a press influenced the development and refinement of two remarkable inventions of antiquity - the flour mill and the wine press. Ie olives have indirectly influenced winemaking and bread production. Her merits in medicine and cosmetics from antiquity to the present day are a separate and very large topic.
Probably, without being detailed in detail about the delicate olive presence in the European civilization, a Bulgarian revivalist, the Lyaskovo teacher and writer Tsani Ginchev, managed to summarize the room ethics and the nobility of this blessed tree. "The good," he wrote in a study of the history of Bulgarian gardening, "is like wood oil, where it drips and is absorbed and absorbed and spread more and more, so that it is difficult to remove from the soaked body." ("A few words from the history of our gardening", "Trud" magazine, 1887)