Experts tell us that olive oil cultivation began in Crete and spread to Syria, Palestine and Israel approximately 5000 BCE. Commercial networks and farming knowledge extended the olive to Southern Turkey, Cyprus and then Egypt. Until 1500 BCE Greece, particularly Mycenae, was the area most heavily cultivated. With the expansion of the Greek colonies, olive culture reached Southern Italy and Northern Africa in the 8th century BCE, and then spread into Southern France, Spain and Portugal. Olive trees were planted in the entire Mediterranean basin under Roman rule. Spanish missionaries planted the first olives in America in the 16th century CE.
Homer called olive oil “liquid gold”, and in ancient Greece, athlete ritually rubbed it all over their bodies. Olive oil has been more than mere food to the people of the Mediterranean, it has been medicinal, an endless source of fascination and wonder, and the fountain of great wealth and power. The olive tree has been a symbol of abundance, glory and peace.
In the land of the Hebrews, King Solomon and King David placed great importance on the cultivation of olive trees; King David even had guards watching over the olive groves and warehouses, ensuring the safety of the trees and their precious oil.