Did Ancient Greece Have Olives?

Olives have been a significant part of Mediterranean cuisine for centuries. They are used in salads, as toppings on pizzas, and are a staple ingredient in several Mediterranean dishes. But did you know that the ancient Greeks were also big fans of olives

In this article, we will explore the history of olives in ancient Greece and how they were used.

The History of Olives in Ancient Greece

Olives have been cultivated in Greece since prehistoric times. The Minoan civilization that existed on the Greek island of Crete from around 2700 BC to 1450 BC is known to have grown olives. The ancient Greeks referred to the olive tree as “the tree that feeds the children” because it provided them with food, oil, medicine, and wood.

The Greeks believed that the goddess Athena gave them the olive tree as a gift. According to Greek mythology, Athena and Poseidon were both vying for control of Athens.

Poseidon struck his trident into the ground and created a saltwater spring while Athena planted an olive tree. The people of Athens preferred Athena’s gift because it provided them with food and oil.

Uses of Olives in Ancient Greece

Olives were an essential part of ancient Greek cuisine. They were usually eaten as a snack or mixed with other foods such as bread, cheese, or fish. Ancient Greeks also used olives to make olive oil which was used for cooking and lighting lamps.

Olive oil was not just used for cooking; it also had numerous medicinal properties. It was believed to cure ailments such as headaches, wounds, and digestive issues.

In addition to their culinary uses, olives had cultural significance in ancient Greece. Olive wreaths were awarded to winners of athletic competitions like the Olympics. The wreaths were made from olive branches and symbolized victory and honor.


In conclusion, olives have been an essential part of Greek culture for thousands of years. From their early cultivation in the Minoan civilization to their cultural significance in ancient Greek society, olives have played a significant role in the history of Greece.

Today, Greece is one of the largest producers and exporters of olives and olive oil in the world. So, the next time you enjoy a Greek salad or drizzle some olive oil on your pasta, remember that you are partaking in a tradition that dates back thousands of years.