Photo: Olive Oil Times Collection

The peren­nial olive tree under which Plato is believed to have taught his stu­dents 2,400 years ago, is now gone.

In 1976 a bus ran into it and frac­tured its trunk. The bro­ken part of the tree was then trans­ferred to the nearby Geoponic University of Athens and kept in a case.

The remain­ing lower part of the trunk and its gigan­tic roots were dis­cov­ered miss­ing some days ago, local media reported, very likely uprooted and stolen to serve as fire­wood as is the case in many places in Greece. It was cal­cu­lated that the stolen part of the tree weighed more than 1,000 pounds, nev­er­the­less, it was removed with­out any­one tak­ing notice.

Olive Oil Times archives

The leg­end has it that the tree was part of the alleys that sur­rounded Plato’s Academy (called Akademia), and it was among the twelve olive trees that marked the twelve gated entries to the prop­erty. This part of Athens was later, and still is, named ‘Eleonas’ (olive grove) because of those ancient olive trees.

Before the Akademia was a school, and even before Cimon enclosed its precincts with a wall, it con­tained a sacred grove of olive trees ded­i­cated to Athena, the god­dess of wis­dom, out­side the city walls of ancient Athens.

The name for the site was Hekademia (Ἑκαδήμεια), which by clas­si­cal times evolved into Akademia and was explained, at least as early as the begin­ning of the 6th cen­tury BC, by link­ing it to an Athenian hero, a leg­endary “Akademos.”

Plato’s Olive Tree before a bus sheared off all but the trunk in 1976

It seems that when­ever the mod­ern and the ancient world col­lide, sadly the lat­ter doesn’t stand a chance.



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