Olive branch

Olive branch

The olive branch is a branch of an olive tree. In Western culture, derived from the customs of Ancient Greece, it symbolizes peace or goodwill. The original link between olive branches and peace is unknown. Some explanations center on that olive trees take a very long time to bear fruit. Thus the cultivation of olives is something that is generally impossible in time of war. [1] Another possible explanation is that olives are among the first agricultural crops and an offering of an olive branch is a way to establish peace and camaraderie through agriculture.


From the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible, a white dove carrying an olive branch is a sign of peace. After the Great Flood, in order to find land, Noah released a dove three times. On the first trip, the dove returned with nothing, indicating that the waters had not yet receded. On the second trip, the dove came back carrying an olive leaf in its beak (Genesis 8:11), which informed Noah that God had taken mercy on humanity and caused the flood to recede and physically showed there was some earth now above water level:

And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.
Genesis 8:11

The third trip is when the dove does not return to Noah, showing the waters have abated completely and the dove has found a home of its own to reside. God then caused a rainbow to appear in the sky[2]as a symbol of his covenant with mankind never to destroy the earth by water again.

This story has led to the dove and the olive branch (combined with the classical tradition) to become symbols of peace. The rainbow may also represent peace, whereby God directs His "bow" toward Himself, an ancient symbol of a cessation of hostilities. The motif can also represent "hope for peace" or a peace offering from one man to another, as in the phrase "extend an olive branch".



These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. Revelation 11:4

According to Revelation chapter 11, the two witnesses are symbolised as the "two olive trees and the two lampstands" that have the power to destroy their enemies, control the weather and cause plagues.[3] Their description as "two olive trees and two lampstands" may be symbolism, allegory, or literal.[4]

Ancient Greece and Rome


Peace and prosperity

In Greek mythology, Zeus was to bestow the newly created city of Athens to the god who provided the most useful gift to humanity. Poseidon cast down a bolt which brought forth from the ground a spring. Athena created the olive tree, and subsequently won.[5] Olive wreaths were worn by brides[6] and awarded to olympic victors.[7]

The symbolism of the olive branch was carried on to Ancient Rome, where a defeated army would carry olive branches as a gesture of peace.

Modern usage

Olive branches have been used throughout modern and classical works to represent peace.

In 1775, the Continental Congress submitted an "Olive Branch Petition" to the government of Great Britain, hoping to achieve a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

The eagle on the Great Seal of the United States grasps with its right talon an olive branch bearing thirteen olives and leaves[8]. The flags of many nations and the seal of the United Nations feature olive branches in their designs.

The flag of Cyprus uses olive branches as both a symbol of peace and a reflection of the country's ancient Greek heritage. Olive branches also appear in many police patches and badges across the world to signify peace.

Other uses

See also


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