The sacred, age-old olive tree

The age-old olive is the subject of a tribute exhibition being held at the Athens Academy from June 15 to October 15 which will include objects such as fossilized olive leaves and pits found at the Minoan palatial complex in Zakros, Crete, oil lamps and perfume bottles, tools used since ancient times to cultivate olive trees and a number of other items of historical interest. «An Ode to the Olive» is an ambitious effort to present the different influences the «sacred tree» has had on the daily life of the Greeks from antiquity to the present, examining, for example, its symbolic importance, its role in rituals and ceremonies, its influence on art, its part as a staple of the Greek diet and its effect on the economy. Organizers are placing strong emphasis on the commercial value of the olive, wanting to promote its expansive dietary properties. The exhibition has been separated into six sections: The first traces the presence of the olive in Greek antiquity and mythology; the second looks at the connection between the olive and sports; the third, at the symbolic nature of the tree; the fourth at its role in the Greek countryside; the fifth at its dietary properties, and the last at its presence in art, with displays ranging from paintings, sculptures and engravings, to mosaics, jewelry, medals, ceramic works and floral designs. The exhibition and accompanying catalog have been organized and compiled by the Athens Academy Center of Research of Greek Folklore, based on ongoing efforts to create the first Olive Museum at the traditional settlement of Kapsaliana on Crete. «The exhibition and catalog trace a long journey through time as well as presenting the use of the olive through antiquity, the Byzantine era and modern times, emphasizing its contribution to folk tradition,» said Secretary-General for the Olympic Games Spyros Kapralos at a recent presentation. Publication The tome «An Ode to the Olive» consists of 25 contributions by acclaimed scientists and historians and is the result of cooperation between the scientists and the Athens Academy Center of Research of Greek Folklore which arose from two international congresses on the olive and olive oil. This approach, of tracing the presence of the olive through antiquity and folk tradition to the present day, reveals just how close the ancient olive groves depicted in the murals of Knossos, the fossilized olive leaves and the ancient oil presses are to the magnificent present-day groves of Corfu, Amfissa and Crete and to the forgotten remnants of crumbling presses around the country.

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