Olives in Greek Mythology
According to myth, Poseidon and Athena competed against each other for the Kingdom of Attica. Poseidon, “God of seas”, struck his trident to the ground and a well of salt water was formed granting the Greeks with a means of trade and water which however was non potable.
Athena on the other hand a “Goddess of wisdom and justice” gave them the olive tree and with it its many beneficial properties. Poseidon who probably foresaw the outcome was outraged and challenged Athena but Zeus intervened ordering the formation of a divine tribunal of Olympian deities. Cecrops the mythical king sided with the Goddess and on accepting her gifts, Athena became the patron deity of the Athenians who in her honour named the new city after her.
Displeased by the outcome the God of seas tried to set fire to the tree using a thunderbolt. To his dismay he realised the next morning that the tree had re-grown. Local legend has it that after all these centuries the original olive tree still stands at this ancient sacred site.
Born to the mortal Alcmene and the “Father of Gods and men” Zeus, Hercules is a well known mythological hero famous for his “twelve labours“given to him by king Eurystheus of Tiryns. A lesser known myth from Hercules’s early adulthood recalls the tearing of a wild olive tree from the soil of Mount Helicon which was shaped into a club and used to slew the Lion of Cithaeron. After killing the lion, he removed its pelt and wore it over himself, an act that is often confused with his first labour the strangling of the Nemean Lion.
The son of Apollo and the huntress Cyrene, was Aristaeus. A minor God in Greek mythology, who was taken by Hermes, raised on ambrosia and trained in useful arts and mysteries by the Myrtle-nymphs. He was taught how to cultivate the wild oleaster and make it bear olives. By passing his knowledge on to others he was paid divine honours and became a culture hero.