Why Was Olive Oil Important in Ancient Greece?

Olive oil has been an important part of the Mediterranean diet for centuries. It has numerous health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

However, in ancient Greece, olive oil played an even more significant role in everyday life. Let’s explore why olive oil was so important in ancient Greece.

History of Olive Oil in Ancient Greece

Olive trees have been cultivated in Greece since ancient times. According to Greek mythology, Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war, gave an olive tree to the city of Athens as a gift. The Greeks believed that the gods had created the olive tree as a symbol of peace and fertility.

The ancient Greeks used olive oil for many purposes. They used it for cooking, lighting lamps and torches, and as a cosmetic for their skin and hair. Olive oil was also used as a medicine to treat wounds and illnesses.

Cultural Significance

Olive oil had immense cultural significance in ancient Greece. It was considered a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Owning an olive grove was a sign of status, and athletes who won events at the Olympic Games were given wreaths made from olive branches.

In addition to this, there were religious rituals that involved the use of olive oil. During weddings, brides would anoint themselves with olive oil before entering their new homes. Olive oil was also used during funerals to anoint the body before burial.

Economic Importance

Olive oil was not only culturally significant but also economically important in ancient Greece. The export of olive oil was a major source of income for Greek city-states such as Athens and Corinth.

The Greeks traded their olive oil with other Mediterranean countries such as Egypt and Rome for goods such as grain, wine, and textiles. It is believed that trade in olive oil accounted for up to one-third of Athens’ total revenue during the 5th century BC.


In conclusion, olive oil was an essential part of ancient Greek life. It was used for cooking, lighting, cosmetics, medicine, and had immense cultural and economic significance. Today, Greece remains one of the largest producers of olive oil in the world, and it continues to be an important part of the Mediterranean diet.

So next time you use olive oil in your cooking or skincare routine, remember its rich history and significance in ancient Greece!