HomeREADERSCIVILISATIONSHerodotus: hat Do Antique Anatolians Tell Us On: Olive, Olive Trees and...

Herodotus: hat Do Antique Anatolians Tell Us On: Olive, Olive Trees and Olive Oil

book 1, chapter 193: … does not even try to bear trees, fig, vine, or olive, but Demeter ‘s grain is so abundant there
book 1, chapter 193: … does not even try to bear trees, fig, vine, or olive, but Demeter ‘s grain is so abundant there
book 2, chapter 92: … wasps; this produces many edible seeds as big as olive pits, which are eaten both fresh and dried. They
book 4, chapter 34: … (this tomb is at the foot of an olive-tree, on the left hand of the entrance of
book 5, chapter 82: … neither, but make them of the wood of the cultivated olive. So the men of Epidaurus asked the Athenians to permit them to cut down some olive trees, supposing the olives there to be the holiest. … was granted. When they set up images made of these olive trees, their land brought forth fruit, and they fulfilled
book 7, chapter 19: … vision: Xerxes thought that he was crowned with an olive bough, of which the shoots spread over the whole
book 8, chapter 26: … which they contended. They told him of the crown of olive that was given to the victor. Then Tigranes
book 8, chapter 55: … “ Earthborn ,” and in the shrine are an olive tree and a pool of salt water. The story … when they contended for the land. It happened that the olive tree was burnt by the barbarians with the rest
book 8, chapter 124: … high honor. They bestowed on Eurybiades a crown of olive as the reward of excellence and another such crown
 
 193.
There is little rain in Assyria. This nourishes the roots of the grain; but it is irrigation from the river that ripens the crop and brings the grain to fullness. In Egypt, the river itself rises and floods the fields; in Assyria, they are watered by hand and by swinging beams.1 [2] For the whole land of Babylon, like Egypt, is cut across by canals. The greatest of these is navigable: it runs towards where the sun rises in winter, from the Euphrates to another river, the Tigris, on which stood the city of Ninus. This land is by far the most fertile in grain which we know. [3] It does not even try to bear trees, fig, vine, or olive, but Demeter’s grain is so abundant there that it yields for the most part two hundred fold, and even three hundred fold when the harvest is best. The blades of the wheat and barley there are easily four fingers broad; [4] and for millet and sesame, I will not say to what height they grow, though it is known to me; for I am well aware that even what I have said regarding grain is wholly disbelieved by those who have never visited Babylonia. They use no oil except what they make from sesame.2 There are palm trees there growing all over the plain, most of them yielding fruit, from which food is made and wine and honey. [5] The Assyrians tend these like figs, and chiefly in this respect, that they tie the fruit of the palm called male by the Greeks to the date-bearing palm, so that the gall-fly may enter the dates and cause them to ripen, and that the fruit of the palm may not fall; for the male palms, like unripened figs, have gall-flies in their fruit.
1 That is, by the “shadoof,” a familiar object to travellers on the Nile; a lever with a bucket attached, revolving on a post.
2 Sesame-oil or “Benre-oil” is still in common use in the East.
Herodotus, with an English translation by A. D. Godley. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1920.
The Annenberg CPB/Project provided support for entering this text.
92.
All these are the customs of Egyptians who live above the marsh country. Those who inhabit the marshes have the same customs as the rest of Egyptians, even that each man has one wife just like Greeks. They have, besides, devised means to make their food less costly. [2] When the river is in flood and flows over the plains, many lilies, which the Egyptians call lotus, grow in the water. They gather these and dry them in the sun; then they crush the poppy-like center of the plant and bake loaves of it. [3] The root of this lotus is edible also, and of a sweetish taste; it is round, and the size of an apple. [4] Other lilies grow in the river, too, that are like roses; the fruit of these is found in a calyx springing from the root by a separate stalk, and is most like a comb made by wasps; this produces many edible seeds as big as olive pits, which are eaten both fresh and dried. [5] They also use the byblus which grows annually: it is gathered from the marshes, the top of it cut off and put to other uses, and the lower part, about twenty inches long, eaten or sold. Those who wish to use the byblus at its very best, roast it before eating in a red-hot oven. Some live on fish alone. They catch the fish, take out the intestines, then dry them in the sun and eat them dried.
 34.
I know that they do this. The Delian girls and boys cut their hair in honor of these Hyperborean maidens, who died at Delos; the girls before their marriage cut off a tress and lay it on the tomb, wound around a spindle [2] (this tomb is at the foot of an olive-tree, on the left hand of the entrance of the temple of Artemis); the Delian boys twine some of their hair around a green stalk, and lay it on the tomb likewise.
 82.
This was the beginning of the Aeginetans’ long-standing debt of enmity against the Athenians. The Epidaurians’ land bore no produce. For this reason they inquired at Delphi concerning this calamity, and the priestess bade them set up images of Damia and Auxesia,1 saying that if they so did their luck would be better. The Epidaurians then asked in addition whether they should make the images of bronze or of stone, and the priestess bade them do neither, but make them of the wood of the cultivated olive. [2] So the men of Epidaurus asked the Athenians to permit them to cut down some olive trees, supposing the olives there to be the holiest. Indeed it is said that at that time there were no olives anywhere save at Athens. [3] The Athenians consented to give the trees, if the Epidaurians would pay yearly sacred dues to Athena, the city’s goddess, and to Erechtheus. The Epidaurians agreed to this condition, and their request was granted. When they set up images made of these olive trees, their land brought forth fruit, and they fulfilled their agreement with the Athenians.
1 The name Damia is probably connected with δᾶ (=γῆ), Earth; Auxesia clearly with αὐξάνω. They were goddesses of increase and fertility.
Herodotus, with an English translation by A. D. Godley. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1920.
 19.
Xerxes was now intent on the expedition and then saw a third vision in his sleep, which the Magi interpreted to refer to the whole earth and to signify that all men should be his slaves. This was the vision: Xerxes thought that he was crowned with an olive bough, of which the shoots spread over the whole earth, and then the crown vanished from off his head where it was set. [3] The Magi interpreted it in this way, and immediately every single man of the Persians who had been assembled rode away to his own province and there used all zeal to fulfill the kings command, each desiring to receive the promised gifts. Thus it was that Xerxes mustered his army, searching out every part of the continent.
26.
There had come to them a few deserters, men of Arcadia, lacking a livelihood and desirous to find some service. Bringing these men into the king’s presence, the Persians inquired of them what the Greeks were doing, there being one who put this question in the name of all. [2] When the Arcadians told them that the Greeks were holding the Olympic festival and viewing sports and horseraces, the Persian asked what was the prize offered, for which they contended. They told him of the crown of olive that was given to the victor. Then Tigranes son of Artabanus uttered a most noble saying (but the king deemed him a coward for it); [3] when he heard that the prize was not money but a crown, he could not hold his peace, but cried, “Good heavens, Mardonius, what kind of men are these that you have pitted us against? It is not for money they contend but for glory of achievement!” Such was Tigranes’ saying.
Herodotus, with an English translation by A. D. Godley. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1920.
 55.
I will tell why I have mentioned this. In that acropolis is a shrine of Erechtheus, called the “Earthborn,” and in the shrine are an olive tree and a pool of salt water. The story among the Athenians is that they were set there by Poseidon and Athena as tokens when they contended for the land. It happened that the olive tree was burnt by the barbarians with the rest of the sacred precinct, but on the day after its burning, when the Athenians ordered by the king to sacrifice went up to the sacred precinct, they saw a shoot of about a cubit’s length sprung from the stump, and they reported this.
Herodotus, with an English translation by A. D. Godley. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1920.
 124.
The Greeks were too jealous to assign the prize and sailed away each to his own place, leaving the matter undecided; nevertheless, Themistocles was lauded, and throughout all of Hellas was deemed the wisest man by far of the Greeks. [2] However, because he had not received from those that fought at Salamis the honor due to his preeminence, he immediately afterwards went to Lacedaemon in order that he might receive honor there. The Lacedaemonians welcomed him and paid him high honor. They bestowed on Eurybiades a crown of olive as the reward of excellence and another such crown on Themistocles for his wisdom and cleverness. They also gave him the finest chariot in Sparta, [3] and with many words of praise, they sent him home with the three hundred picked men of Sparta who are called Knights to escort him as far as the borders of Tegea. Themistocles was the only man of whom we know to whom the Spartans gave this escort.
Herodotus, with an English translation by A. D. Godley. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1920.
RELATED ARTICLES

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular