The Olive was a native to Asia Minor and spread from Iran, Syria and Palestine to the rest of the Mediterranean basin 5,000 years ago. It is among the oldest known cultivated trees in the world - being grown before the written language was invented.
It was grown in Crete by 3,000 BC and may have been the source of the wealth of the Minoan kingdom. The Phoenicians spread the olive to the Mediterranean shores of Africa and Southern Europe.
The olive culture was spread to the early Greeks and Romans. As the Romans extended their domain they brought the olive with them. In the past several hundred years the olive has spread to North and South America, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.
Athens is named for the Goddess Athena who brought the olive to the Greeks as a gift. Zeus had promised to give Attica to the god or goddess who made the most useful invention. Athena's gift of the olive, useful for light, heat, food, medicine and perfume was picked as a more peaceful invention than Poseidon's horse - touted as a rapid and powerful instrument of war. Athena planted the original olive tree on a rocky hill which we know today as the Acropolis. The olive tree which grows there today is said to have come from the roots of the original tree.