The history of olive oil in Greece 

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The history of olive oil in Greece 

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The island of Zakynthos is world-renowned for its breathtaking sandy beaches and picturesque scenery. Unlike the other islands which are known for their rich history and architecture, Zakynthos is known to provide the perfect backdrop for any relaxing holiday. 

The origin of olive oil in Greece

Olive oil has long been a part of various spiritual beliefs and the olive branch is a well-known symbol of peace, abundance, fertility and glory. With its uses spreading far past just being used during cooking, this hallowed oil was also used for sacrificial purposes, ointments, ceremonial anointing of priests and royalty, as well as being smeared on their ancient warriors during the battles and sporting events.

Today it is widely regarded as one of the purest and healthiest olive oils on today’s market. Greek olive oil is said to be of premium quality, with low acidity levels and peroxides, resulting in it dominating the market. Besides being used in cooking it is also sought-after for high-quality cosmetic products and is a staple item in any household.

Olive oil in Ancient Greece

Olive oil played an important role in numerous cultural events and its use was proven from around 500 BC. Although historians believe that it was in use even prior to then as there are traces of olive branches in ancient burial grounds. Olive branches were placed in the graves to protect the person’s soul from bad spirits 


The olive tree and products made from it were considered sacred to the Greek people as it was widely used to praise their gods and pictures depicting gods with olive branches as headpieces. Olive oil was also used as a way of anointing in religious ceremonies and there is a Legend that Poseidon, King of the Sea presented an olive branch to Athena as a gift to celebrate her honor and assistance in protecting Greece. 

Olive groves in Greece

It is widely believed that the Greeks began cultivating olive oil around 700 BC, with legends saying that the first olive tree was planted by Athena at the rock of the Acropolis in Athens. The Acropolis rock in Athens has become a well-liked tourist attraction, also known as the sacred rock that offers magnificent views of the city and one of the most recognizable monuments in the world. 


The oldest olive trees that can be found today are located in Crete, one of the most popular destinations for tourists and locals alike. The olive oil produced in Crete is said to be of the highest quality due to its climate and the strict regulations enforced by the government to ensure the health of the olive trees. These strict regulations also lead to Crete having a pristine condition, perfect for sunbathing and taking in all Greece has to offer. 


Today olive groves are scattered throughout Greece and cover almost 11.6 million acres, with approximately 170 million trees. The olive groves make for a picturesque site all over Greece and are popular among tourists for tasting, relaxing and learning more about Greek culture. Another popular past-time among locals is taking a scenic drive through the olive groves with the ocean as its backdrop, many of the Greek islands offer viewing platforms along the coast and country roads. 

Olive oil Today

Today approximately 80% of olives are harvested for the purpose of making olive oil, with the remaining 20% being used for the olives themselves. There are numerous types of olive oil in production and they are distinguished by their colour, aroma and flavour. These factors determine their quality and what they are used for. The environment the olive trees grow in, the manufacturing processes, storage and transportation methods as well as the age of the oil all play an important role in the end quality of the olive oil. There are strict regulations in place within each company to ensure that the olive oil produced is of the highest quality possible. 


The most sought-after Greek olive oil is extra virgin olive oil, with an exceptional taste, colour and aroma. Next is virgin olive oil which is very similar to extra virgin olive oil except that it has a slightly higher acidity level. There are also mixed olive oil, refined olive oil and green olive oil which come from Greece, all with a variety of flavors and aromas. The olive oil industry earns profits reaching into the billions of dollars each year and is expected to grow in the future as society becomes more focused on healthy lifestyles. 



Learn more about Greece with Demargia Villas

We at Demargia Villas are proud of our beautiful country and hope to share it with the world through our blogs and social media accounts. Follow us on @demargiavillas or visit us on to learn more about the wonderful country of Greece and all the best places tourists have to see! In our next blog we will discuss the multiple health benefits and why it makes the perfect gift or souvenir to take home from your trip to Greece!