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Greek Tree of Life

Greek Tree of Life

The OLIVE TREE is not just any tree. There is a reason it is so popular in Greece and can be seen growing all over Athens, the city of the goddess Athena.

Athena and the olive tree make for a twisted story, straight from marvellous Greek mythology.

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, all residents with the athletic physique of Greek statues, who lived in miniature Parthenons at the hill of the Acropolis, were asked to chose a governor for their town.

Two candidates were competing with one another for the honour, using their wits and power, to convince the Greek citizens of their supreme competence and benefits to the town.

Both, ATHENA and POSEIDON attempted to become patrons of the city and to give their name to it. They decided that each would give the people one gift, so that the inhabitants would pick their preferred offering, thereby nominating the winner.

Poseidon, the god of the sea, earthquakes and horses, created a spring of SALT WATER by striking the ground with his trident. Hm. Just think about it. What use is salty water to a city? Eh, men – all about using weapons and demonstrating muscle power.

Athena was clever. She was the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, just warfare, mathematics, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill… (To be fair, Poseidon stood no chance really).

Athena thought about the long term benefits for a town, bringing peace and prosperity. She offered the city an OLIVE TREE. The tree brought wood, oil and olives, which are all just wonderful. Needless to say, the people chose the olive tree and named the city after Athena. Nice.

Mythology is awesome. Did you know how Athena was born? She came out of  Zeus’s head, who swallowed Athena’s pregnant mother. Zeus’s head was split open with an axe after he complained of an enormous headache. From the head emerged Athena, fully grown and armed.

HOMER must have ingested some kind of  ‘enhanced’ olive oil, when making this stuff up.

Walking around Athens means walking around olive trees. You can spot green and black olives growing in town.

Olive trees in Athens

 

Olives and the Acropolis with the ruined temple of Parthenon, dedicated to Athena, in the background.

Olive trees in Athens

 

Athena statue standing proud behind many small olive trees, in the Pedion tou Areos Park (Πεδίον του Άρεως) at the entrance to Alexandras Avenue.

Goddess Athena statue Pedion tou Areos Park Athens

 

More of the goddess. I think I am turning into a neoclassic romantic. This monument from 1952 is actually dedicated to British, Australian and New Zealand soldiers killed in WWII.

Goddess Athena statue Pedion tou Areos Park Athens Goddess Athena statue Pedion tou Areos Park Athens

 

Pedion tou Areos  is not only worth the visit for the sake of the goddess. It is a large public park, which was recently radically renovated with EU funding of about 10 million Euros. I am saying this because I was amazed how most of the nice sights in Athens (I have seen) are EU sponsored projects. Greece is the third largest receiver of funds, if compared to national contribution in the EU, right after Poland and Spain.

Pedion tou Areos Park Athens

 

The effects of the workings of the EU in poorer regions are truly striking. If only the EU would reproduce the most magnificent statue of Athena, a 13 meter (43 feet!) high monument, standing at her temple. I am calling for the recreation of one of the greatest stunners of the ancient world.

Here is what the new Acropolis Museum suggests, the monumental statue would look like.

Reproduction Statue of Athena at the Parthenon

You know what, I can’t believe it but Nashville in the United States did it – not only a copy of Athena but the whole temple (www.nashville.gov/parthenon). Hm. Is that a statement to the crumbling ruins of the Parthenon in Athens?

Back to Athena’s gift. Greek olive oil accompanies all Greek dishes and is used in large measures. I am probably not kidding, when I say that Greek mothers breastfeed olive oil.  Or maybe they just bath their offspring in olive oil. At least under the patronage of Athena, they sure did.

Olive oil shelves in Greek supermarket

 

Olive trees grow right in front of H&M.

Olive tree in front of H&M Athens

 

The olive tree is the Tree of Life. With its many branches and fascinating developments, evolution has brought about a new life form: the perpetual traveler.

Olive Tree of Life Greece

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