Olive leaf - Olea europaea
The Olive Tree is an evergreen tree or shrub native to Mediterranean Europe, Asia, and Africa. The leaves of the Olive Tree, along with the oils it produced, were especially sacred to the Ancient Greeks. In fact, they called it 'liquid gold', and used it for a multitude of purposes, from using as part of holy rites, to medicines and skin treatments. Olive leaf branches were routinely offered to deities as emblems of grace and thanks during holy rituals.
The Olive Tree in Myths and Legends
Artemis & Apollo
On the sacred island of Delos, under the shade of the olive trees, Leto gave birth to her twins Artemis and Apollo. The olive trees became her sanctuary against the hostile outside world, and so they remained important in the later myths and legends of her children.
The Legend of Athena
Poseidon claimed possession of the great city of Athens through force - by thrusting his trident into the Acropolis, causing a well of sea-water to flow. When Athena peacefully planted the first olive tree beside the well, the Gods and Goddesses ruled that she had offered the better gift to the city, and so Athens became her rightful realm and namesake.
Extending an olive branch - a symbol of Peace
A symbol of peace. A gesture of friendship and goodwill. In both mythology and the Bible, the olive branch is an emblem synonymous with harmony, glory and unity. The ancient Greeks also believed that olive branches represented plenty, and drove away evil spirits. Ancient Roman envoys used olive branches as symbols of Goodwill. In the Christian Bible, Noah learns that the floods are over when a dove arrives with an olive branch.
A symbol of Success & Glory
Crowns of wild olive leaves were awarded to victors in the ancient Olympic Games. Olive oil was also used to anoint Kings.
A symbol of Purity
Olive wreaths were worn by ancient Greek Brides to symbolise their chastity.