When olive oil was born

When olive oil was born

The first hints about the use of olive oil date back to about 6 millennia ago, when it was used for lamps and ointments in the Middle East.

The first certain sources however date back to some millennia later, with inventories of ships of 4000 BC, or the code of Hammurabi (2500 BC), containing a series of rules for the production and trading of oil.

With the Greeks, the cultivation of olive trees spread in the Mediterranean, thanks to the mythology that told of the birth of Apollo under an olive tree, and about his son Aristeo who taught men to extract oil from olives. 

Also in the spread of the olive tree by the Romans the mythological aspect played a key role: according to legend, it was the hero Hercules who brought the olive trees from North Africa in Italy. With the growth of the Roman Empire, olive trees were imported in the new colonies, as the commercial value of oil was of fundamental importance. Romans also started a classification of oils in 5 categories, based on the state of ripeness of olives.

At the fall of the Roman Empire, the spread of the olive tree had a collapse, only during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance the production of oil returned to be profitable, so that in 1300 began to arise the first ideas about the use of oil as a condiment, with a strong prevalence in southern Europe, at the expense of the use of animal fats as in northern areas.

In the following centuries, the production of oil and the cultivation of olive trees had an unstoppable growth: oil spread in almost every continent, thanks to the immigrants of Italian and Greek origins, also becoming one of the symbolic products of Made in Italy.