Athens is named after the Goddess Athena. The myth says that the first king of Athens, Cecrops (quite an extraordinary king himself as he was part human and part snake), had to decide which deity would be the protector of the city.
The two Olympian gods who were interested in patronage were Poseidon, the god of the sea and Athena the goddess of wisdom. Cecrops in order to decide which deity would be the most useful for the city, devised a competition.
He asked for them to offer an important gift to the city. The most valuable one would determine the winner.
First came Poseidon, he hit the earth with his trident and a frothy spring burst out producing a small lake. The people loved it but as they went closer to taste the water, to their dismay it was salty. Then, it was Athena’s turn, and her act was far less dramatic. She quietly knelt and buried something in the ground which in time grew into an olive tree. Cecrops was impressed by Athena’s gift, so he chose her to be the patron deity of the city. Poseidon, however, was offended by Cecrops choice and cursed the city to lack water.Since then, according to the myth, Athens has a major problem of water shortage.
But, what made Cecrops choose olive trees instead of the sea?
Myths are invented to explain reality. So apart from the fact that Athens, indeed, has shortage of water, the production of olive trees was crucial for ancient Greeks and the demonstrations of how special this tree was, were abundant. It symbolized strength, victory, fertility, resistance and it was a sacred element when offered to Gods.
Ancient Greeks understood that olive oil was highly nutritious, so olives were used as food. They also mastered the art of pressing them in order to produce the precious olive oil. Archaeological studies prove that Greece has been producing high quality olive oil for more than 4000 years. Over time, olive oil got the nickname of “liquid gold” because of how important it was to the economy of Ancient Greece and it was responsible for generating revenue in most of the city-states that produced it. Indeed, one could reasonably assert that the whole of Greek civilization was established upon the branches of this humble tree.