Rarely has a tree borne so much symbolism, nor been at the heart of so many legends… After the goddess Athena planted it in Ancient times, the olive tree became the symbol of Athens, representing strength and victory, wisdom and loyalty, immortality and hope, and wealth and abundance.
The proverbs of Provence confirm it. “At 100, an olive tree is a young man…” Or even “the olive tree never dies without an heir…”. Indeed, in their natural state, when an olive tree grows old, it produces shoots from its base, and, by doing so, effectively never dies of old age. The new tree that replaces it is not a new olive tree all together, but rather an extension of itself.
Its resistance to drought led it to be highly venerated across the Mediterranean countries, whose people thrived on its fruits before discovering the richness of its oil in the Bronze Age, according to archaeologists.
Imported from Syria by the Egyptian pharaohs and the Mesopotamian kings, it was seen in the very highest regard. It later saw a boom with the invention of soap and textile finishing.
But the olive tree remains above all a universal symbol. The Ancient Greeks rewarded its Olympic Games heroes with olive branches and jars of olive oil, a symbol that has stood the test of time.
In France, it long featured on the franc coin, and we find it on members of the Académie Française today through their “habit vert” outfits, thus named for their green embroidered olive-branch design.
On the UN flag, the two olive branches that surround the world are a symbol of peace.