Historical review of olive’s cultivation

Historical review of olive’s cultivation

The history of olive is much older than the human one. It is known the legend that dates the appearance of olive to the conflict between Athena and Apollo regarding the name of the city of Athens. It has been recognised as the symbol of peace; it has been considered sacred tree and victors of Olympic Games were crowned with leaves of wild olive (“kotinos”).

Olive oil has always been a fundamental product for the Mediterranean people. Its high nutritional value has been long recognised, as were its medicinal capacities: prevention of cardiac disorders (such as infarctions), reinforcement of intellectual lucidity and smooth functioning of digestive system. Otherwise its aphrodisiac capacities are well-known.

The plain of Molaoi, which during the 19th century was called plain of Asopos and previously during classical period plain of Lefki according to the geographer Strabo, is an alluvial plain between the south part of Mount Parnon and the Laconic Gulf; its total surface is about eighty (80) thousand stremmas.

Ages ago the residents used to get the olive oil that was necessary for their nutrition from the olive trees that were and still are at the sides of the plain and at the roots of the mountains.

Olive oil since antiquity was considered a fine product, used for nutrition and also as beauty and personal hygiene product.

On inscriptions from the ancient city of Asopos, among others we may read that the privileged of August Gaius Julius Spyroklis from Laconia offered to Asopos High School the necessary “olive oil” for the century.

At a reference of the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos (the “Purple-born”) entitled “of the Governance of the Empire” to his son Romanos refers to Maleas peninsula that he actually characterises “oleiferous” and exactly he notes:

“…the area where people live is drought and of no avail, while their comfort is the olive trees. This area is commanded to the end of Maleas peninsula…” (“….ο δε τόπος εν ω οικούσιν έστι άνυδρος και απρόσοδος, ελαιοφόρος δε όθεν και την παραμυθιάν έχουσιν. Διοικείται δε ο τοιούτος τόπος εις άκρα του Μαλέα….”).

Since the 6th century B.C. olive oil became foodstuff, and then it acquired a special economic and market value and it became a special resource for the residents of the plain.

This is especially proven during the Venetian Occupation. The Venetians, wishing to increase the olive oil production allowed under a law the free grafting of wild olive trees providing title deeds to those who grafted the tree, even if this was in the property of someone else. This law was very favourable for the olive cultivators and this encouragement on behalf of the Venetians led residents to the afforestation of the plain and the grafting of all wild olive trees on the roots of the mountains in a few days.

The geographer Scrofani wrote in 1795 for the area: “…the best olive groves have been planted by the Venetians. The systematic cultivation begins in the middle of the 18th century…”

Actually olive oil during the period of Venetian rule was the most significant product of Laconia.

Mainly the French bought big quantities; Vasileios Kremmydas in his study regarding the Peloponnesian trade during the 18th century mentions the olive oil from Laconia for its special quality (green olive oil) and big quantities of it were exported to Georgia and Germany. Meanwhile, traders of other nationalities such as people from Dalmatia and Ragusa as well as traders from Zakynthos developed great commercial activity at the area of Laconia during the 18th century.

The liberation from the Turkish rule and the reconstitution of the Greek state found the plain of Molaoi rich and productive regarding olive cultivation. In statistics at 1828, the district of Monemvasia enumerated 26,600 olive trees totally while there were several oil mills (totally 55 oil mills).