The olive tree in Ancient Greece was a symbol of peace and friendship. Legend has it that the city of Athens took its name from Poseidon's duel with Athena. Where Poseidon, god of the sea, struck his trident on the rock, the rock split in two and unleashed a spring. However, the Athenians noticed that the water was salty, like that of the sea, and would not benefit them in any way. Athena, goddess of wisdom, for her part, donated to the Athenians an olive tree, which would provide them with oil, food and wood. The Athenians were thrilled and the city was renamed Athens, in honor of the goddess.
The olive wreath, also known as kotinos was the prize for the winner at the ancient Olympic Games. It was a branch of the wild olive tree Kallistefanos Elea that grew at Olympia. The branches of the sacred wild-olive tree near the temple of Zeus were cut with a pair of golden scissors by a pais amphithales (a boy whose parents were both alive). Then he took them to the temple of Hera and placed them on a gold-ivory table. From there, the Hellanodikai (the judges of the Olympic Games) would take them, make the wreaths and crown the winners of the Olympic Games. According to Pausanias it was introduced by Heracles as a prize for the running race winner to honor his father Zeus. In the ancient Olympic Games there were no gold, silver, or bronze medals. There was only one winner per event, crowned with an olive wreath made of wild-olive leaves from the sacred tree near the temple of Zeus at Olympia. Olive wreaths were given out during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens in honor of the ancient tradition, because the games were being held in Greece which was also used as the official emblem.

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