Monday, August 16, 2010

History: Olive Pits In The Saltwater Lake

According to Greek mythology, two of the gods who are favorites at my house didn’t like each other one little bit. The reason is explained as a competition, lost by Poseidon lord of the ocean, over who would be patron in the city of Athens. Each god created a gift for the people of the city and it was based on the usefulness of same that the patron would be chosen. Athena, in her wisdom, presented the olive tree, good for wood, oil and olives even to this day. Poseidon, who must have been out partying with his nephew Dionysus the night before, gave the populace a saltwater lake. Seriously. Athena wins! And a bitter rivalry is born.

Knowing this I couldn’t help but chuckle at the irony of this
article over at Yahoo! News. Apparently the sons of Poseidon were as fond of olives as the Athenians themselves.

Discovered off the coast of Cyprus back in November of 2007, a merchant vessel from the northern Aegean islands has been found to be littered below decks with, of all things, olive pits. The ship dates from approximately 400 BCE and was carrying a cargo made up mostly of wine when it went down, possibly in dirty weather.

At first it was imagined that the pits were rocks used for ballast but examination has shown them to be the hard cores of olives that were certainly eaten by the crew. Probably a supplement to a diet of hard bread, wine, oil and fish, the olives would provide needed vitamin C, particularly after curing in brine.

One wonders if this particular crew’s delight in the gift of Athena made their ship the special target of the ocean god. But only for a moment. That seems petty even for Poseidon. Doesn’t it?


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! That was a good one, Pirate Queen. To paraphrase Homer Simpson, "Geez Poseidon, when you were supposed to be shopping for presents, you must have been out taking a whiz"...

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Timmy and no kidding. Being Mrs. Poseidon must stink around anniversaries and birthdays.

Anonymous said...

The interesting thing to me here is that the gifts are complimentary. Without the salt water to soak the olives in, you're not going to eat them, though they are still good for oil.

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Anony! Thanks for stopping by and bringing up such a good point. You do need a briney environment to make olives worth eating. Of course, personal dislike trumps complimentary logic far too often. Even among the Gods.