Olive oil was common in ancient Greek and Roman cuisine. According to Herodotus, Apollodorus, Plutarch, Pausanias, Ovid and other sources, the city of Athens obtained its name because Athenians considered olive oil essential, preferring the offering of the goddess Athena (an olive tree) over the offering of Poseidon (a spring of salt water gushing out of a cliff). The Spartans and other Greeks used oil to rub themselves while exercising in the gymnasia. From its beginnings early in the 7th century BC, the cosmetic use of olive oil quickly spread to all of the Hellenic city states, together with athletes training in the nude, and lasted close to a thousand years despite its great expense. Olive oil was also popular as a form of birth control; Aristotle in his History of Animals recommends applying a mixture of olive oil combined with either oil of cedar, ointment of lead, or ointment of frankincense to the cervix to prevent pregnancy. Olive trees were planted throughout the entire Mediterranean basin during evolution of the Roman Republic and Empire. According to the historian Pliny the Elder, Italy had "excellent olive oil at reasonable prices" by the 1st century AD—"the best in the Mediterranean", he maintained.
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