The origin of the olive tree has its roots in the mists of time, coinciding with the expansion of the Mediterranean civilisations. Its origins can be traced back to the Tertiary Age in the regions of Syria, Iran and Palestine.
Leaves of fossilized olive trees have been found around the Mediterranean dated from the Palaeolithic and Neolithic period providing us with evidence of the existence of olive trees dated back to the twelfth millennium BC. It is among the oldest known cultivated trees in the world, being grown even before the invention of written language.
Currently it is believed that the current species Olea Europea is a hybrid resulting from the crossing of different species such as African Olea (with origins in Arabia and Egypt), Ferruginea Olea (Asia) and Olea Perrini (abundant in south Morocco and Macaronesian Islands).
In the 16th century BC the Phoenicians started distributing the olive throughout the Greek isles and from the 6th century BC onwards the olive spread throughout the Mediterranean countries.
The Romans continued the expansion of the olive tree to the countries bordering the Mediterranean, using it as a peaceful weapon in their methods of settling people.
Both Greeks and Romans were great enthusiasts of olive oil and were also prodigious in discovering new uses for it. Not happy with its multiple culinary uses, they started using it as a perfume, fuel for light, medicine and waterproof lubricant for agriculture machinery.
Olive growing was introduced to the Iberian Peninsula by the Phoenecians in the time when they dominated the seas but it did not develop significantly until the arrival of the Romans. After the Romans, the Arabs brought their varieties with them to the south of the Iberian Peninsula and influenced an unprecedented spread of cultivation.
With the Portuguese and Spanish maritime expeditions, olive farming spread beyond its Mediterranean confines to other parts of the world.
Nowadays, where the climate is appropriate, between the latitude 30 and 45 north and south, there are olive trees across the world.