The Olive Tree of Civilisation

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The Olive Tree of Civilisation has a rich and varied history. The gnarled tree and its fruits has been extolled by bards from Ovid and Homer to Kipling, Tennyson and Nerua. What other fruit provides light, is a fundamental ingredient in perfume and adds joy and flavour at the table? The ancients knew these virtues, and olive oil became a key to their religious and political ceremonies, from the temples of Ra in Egypt where lamps burned olive oil, to the temple of Soloman, where kings were anointed with oil based ointments. Christ was offered a sip of oil on the cross; Hanukah is at its origin a festival to celebrate olive oil; the tree and its oil are found in the Koran. Today the oil is worshipped by chefs for its flavours and its colours. For decades, cooks and anthropologists have divided Europe along an olive oil/butter boundary; that line is vanishing as olive oil spreads around the globe. This book explores and brings to life the olives's glorious past, with chapters on the fruit's role in mythology, religion and ancient civilisation. It takes the reader on a tour of cultivation sites and illuminates the complex culture of olive oil commerce. Lovely illustrations of nature, human labour, tools and art accompany the text, revealing the olive in all its hues and guises.