Why Was Olive Oil So Important in Ancient Greece?

Olive oil was a vital part of life in ancient Greece. It was so important that it played a significant role in both their economy and their culture.

The use of olive oil can be traced back to ancient times, where it was utilized for various purposes such as cooking, lighting, and even medicine. In this article, we will explore why olive oil was so essential in ancient Greece and its significance.

Cultivation of Olive Trees

The Greeks were skilled cultivators of olive trees and produced high-quality olive oil. The cultivation of olive trees began around 5000 BC in the Mediterranean region.

Olive trees were easy to grow and required little maintenance, making them an ideal crop for the Greeks. They planted the trees on hillsides where there was plenty of sunlight and good drainage.

Importance in Greek Economy

Olive oil played a crucial role in the Greek economy. It was one of the most important export products that generated substantial revenue for the country. The Greeks exported olive oil to different parts of the world, including Rome, Egypt, and Persia.

The demand for olive oil led to an increase in trade relations between Greece and other countries. This helped to boost their economy significantly.

Use in Greek Culture

Apart from its economic importance, olive oil had a significant cultural significance for the Greeks. It had a place in almost every aspect of their daily lives.

The Greeks used olive oil for cooking purposes as it gave their food a distinct flavor that couldn’t be replicated by any other type of oil. Olive oil also played a significant role in religious rituals and ceremonies.

In ancient Greece, athletes would rub themselves with olive oil before participating in sports events such as wrestling or running. This was done to protect their skin from sunburns and injuries while they competed.

Medicinal Properties

Olive oil had medicinal properties that were recognized by the ancient Greeks. They used it to treat various ailments such as digestive issues, skin problems, and even as an antidote for poison.

The Greeks believed that olive oil had healing properties and would use it to massage the body to relieve muscle pain and aches.


In conclusion, olive oil was an essential part of ancient Greek life. It played a crucial role in their economy, culture, and even medicine.

The Greeks valued the olive tree so much that they considered it sacred, often referring to it as “Liquid Gold.” To this day, olive oil remains an important part of Greek cuisine and culture.