500 B.C. THE ROMAN EMPIRE

ROMULUS AND REMUS, SONS OF THE OLIVE TREE

The power exerted by the olive tree was so great that the statues of the gods, scepters and weapons of combat were made with its wood. It was believed that the children of the gods were born in the shade of an olive tree. This belief led very many pregnant women to give birth under an olive tree. Moreover, legend has it that Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome, were born under an olive tree.
Penetrello, historian and Roman analyst, defended the thesis that the first olive tree in Italy sprouted during the kingdom of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, the Elder (616 - 578 B.C.), possibly having been brought from Tripoli or Gaes in Tunisia. From then on, the Romans began to disseminate and encourage the growing of olive trees in the countries they had conquered. Even if this were not true, it happens that, even in the countries where there already were olive trees, the influence of Rome was the springboard that gave impulse and importance to the development of this cultivation.


OLIVE OIL AS INVESTMENT

In periods of ancient history, the production technique and possession of a certain food performed the role that today major discoveries and technological domains exercise for royalty holders. Possessing the technique to produce bread, wine and olive oil, in detriment to the simple obtaining of meat and milk, was a strong sign of civilization and distinction among men (capable of creating and producing their own food), and the animals or barbaric peoples (living only by hunting and gathering).
In the II century B.C., Cato, the Elder ? owner of several rural properties - in a treatise on agriculture (De Agricultura e De Re Rustica), teaches how to establish a large farm for the mixed cultivation of timber trees, cereals, and fruits, including grapes and olives.
In North Africa, in the same region where vestiges were found of the olive tree 14 thousand years ago, the Romans encouraged the cultivation of olive trees and production of the oil. From the then Mauretania Tingitana to Morocco, passing through Auritana Cesarea and Numidia (in the present Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia), cities like Volubilis, Banasa, Cartenae, Sifitis, Lambaese, Thamugadi, Thevesa and Capsa, centralized the trade with incentives from Rome. In these regions, ruins of dozens of presses and storehouses from that time have been found, revealing that there was great olive oil production, which made North Africa one of the most important domains of the Roman Empire. Till this day, Morocco and Tunisia continue to be major producers.
Sophocles (497 - 405 B.C.), great Greek poet and playwright, author of obras primas, such as Antigone, Electra and King Oedipus, among others, described the olive as the sweet grey nursemaid.
Syria, a great cereal producer, exported grain to various Greek cities/states and received large quantities of wine and olive oil in amphoras and ceramic vessels, by camel, caravan and ship.



EATING OLIVE OIL

In ancient classical times, the commonest foods were game, fowl, wheat or some mixture with another other cereal to make bread (maza and porridge# puls de espelta#), cakes baked on fires or ashes from ovens, soups and papas# porridges# based on wheat, barley, espelta# wheat## or millet. Besides this, there were also vegetables, such as beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, garlic, leeks, onions and kale. However, the Greco-Roman civilization had its peculiarities. The food was based on the three staples: wheat, wine and olives. This reference however, is in fact theoretical, and seeks to create an aura of superiority for these peoples, perpetuating the concept that they were always seeking simple, healthy food, a fact reflected in the Greek and Italian gastronomic knowledge of today.



HISPANIA ENTERS THE SCENE

Hispania was one of the most important conquests of Rome, with Augustus, as one of its most prominent administrators, who eventually became Cesar. From the ports of Bética, in Hispania, so many ships must have set sail laden with olive oil that, in 1878, the archaeologist, T. Frank found a small mountain of broken pottery, presumably formed between 138 and 260 B.C., 35m high with a perimeter of 1.6km, next to the port of Óstia, the coastal town nearest Rome. The tons of fragments represent approximately 40 million amphoras, 2 billion litres of olive oil destined for Rome and many other cities under its control. As, in Italian, the word testum means shards/gravel, after discovering the aforementioned mound, it became known as Monte Testaccio.
In the IV century B.C., Solon, known as one of the Seven Wisemen of Greece, created regulations that sought to encourage the cultivation of olive trees.



THE BIBLICAL RECORDS

Therefore, take care to follow the commands, decrees and laws I give you today. If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the LORD your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your forefathers. He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land?your grain, new wine and oil?the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land that he swore to your forefathers to give you. (Deuteronomy 7:11 - 7:13) ?
For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land?a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing;. (Deuteronomy 8:7 - 8:9) ?As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples,...:. (Matthew 21:1) ?
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane (olive oil mill), and he said to them, Sit here while I go over there and pray.? (Matthew 26,36)



A COMPLETE PACKAGE

The amphoras for the transport of olive oil constituted a precious trade document, given that on them were noted the name of the merchant, the transporter, the gross and net weights, and the date of the transaction, besides acting as a system of fiscal control.



PUBLIC INVESTMENT

In order to keep its empire supplied with olive oil, Rome offered two basic benefits to those who planted olive trees: financial support until the trees started to bear fruit, and a guarantee of peace.
Around the I century B.C., the Roman Empire extended eastward from Spain to Syria and northward to Britain, southward to the Sahara. The citizens of these ancient republics were originally small farmers, producing for family consumption and exchanging the surplus. Throughout the decades, even centuries, of occupation, the lands were expropriated by Rome and grabbed by enterprising aristocrats who pieced together small properties to form large ones, using slave labour from the colonies. Over time, these landlords transformed the subsistence plots into rich wine and olive producing concerns geared to the export market.
For the more needy inhabitants, the public administration in Rome made regular distributions of free food, including patties of cereals and olive oil. Joining together food and the fights between gladiators, and between gladiators and wild animals, constituted the famous Roman panis et circenses.
Lucius Iunis Moderatus Columella, native of Cadiz, born in the I century after Christ, in his book Sobre a Agricultura, said that the olive trees planted on slopes in Italy and Bética are those that provide the best oils.
In order to have a more accurate idea of the importance of olive oil in Roman culture, suffice to remember that, around the year 212, when Sétimo Severo died, olive oil, having come primarily from Bética and North Africa, was stored in Rome, where stocks could supply the city for up to 5 years. And here lies an important fact: the amphoras used in antiquity, made from clay and perfectly sealed, provided perfect protection from the air, blocked light from entering, and maintained low temperatures. Thus, the olive oil had the conditions necessary for keeping its original properties.



BLESSING THE PREDESTINED

So he asked Jesse, "Are these all the sons you have?" "There is still the youngest," Jesse answered, "but he is tending the sheep." Samuel said, "Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives." So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the LORD said, "Rise and anoint him; he is the one." So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power. (I Samuel 16:11 - 16:13) ?
So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites went down and put Solomon on King David's mule and escorted him to Gihon. Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the sacred tent and anointed Solomon. Then they sounded the trumpet and all the people shouted, "Long live King Solomon!" (I Kings 1:38 - 1:39)
Solomon, David and all the glory and grandeur of the kings of Israel requested fecundity in being anointed with olive oil. And in all their knowledge, they sought in the anointment, obedience, admiration and bravery of their subjects. ?
...When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?" 11 As she was going to get it, he called, "And bring me, please, a piece of bread. As surely as the LORD your God lives," she replied, "I don't have any bread only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it?and die. Elijah said to her, Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land. She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah. (1 Kings 17:10 - 17:16)

AN ANCIENT RECIPE

Apicius em seu "De Re Coquinaria", nos presenteia com a receita que se segue:

Spicy Fried Pumpkins

Grind# pepper, cumin, oregano, onion, and add# wine, garum(a sauce made from fish entrails, very common at the time), and olive oil.
Finally, fry slices of pumpkin with starch in a frying pan.
Note: We presume that the pumpkin is to be basted with this paste and starch, and then fried.

THE FIRST COSMETIC

In the middle of the II century A.D., there was a doctor who was outstanding for his capacity to write books about medicinal plants, his ingenuity in the creation of tinctures and use of olive oil in his healing compositions.
Claudio Galeno (129 - 199 A.D.), (also known by innumerable Galenic pharmacies worldwide), born in Pergamo, in Anatolia, was a doctor at the Syracuse gladiator school. To prevent and treat countless bruises of which his pupils were often victim, Galeno created a healing marvel based on beeswax, olive oil and water - the first moisturizing cream in the history of mankind.