Tragic Loss: 2,500-Year-Old Olive Tree Burned to Ashes in Greek Fires

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Tragic Loss: 2,500-Year-Old Olive Tree Burned to Ashes in Greek Fires

Thousands of Greeks have fled their homes as a fiery nightmare consumes their island. Furthermore, the legendary 2,500-year-old Evian olive tree has g

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Thousands of Greeks have fled their homes as a fiery nightmare consumes their island. Furthermore, the legendary 2,500-year-old Evian olive tree has gone forever, in what is an environmental clash of the titans.

Standing close by the Greek mainland just east of Athens, the island of Evia (Euboea) is the second largest Greek island after Crete. Now, thousands of people have now evacuated the historic island after record temperatures have set it ablaze.

The Titans Have Returned

According to Greek mythology the island of Euboea was first inhabited by the Titans, precursors and adversaries to the Greek Gods . It was here that the first wars between the Titans and the Giants unfolded, said to be so violent that the battles sparked earthquakes on the island.

Evia was said to have been separated from mainland Greece with a strike of the god Poseidon’s trident, and it was on Mount Ohi, Evia’s third-highest peak and home to the mysterious ancient drakospita (dragon houses), that the nymph Makri raised the child Goddess Hera, the wife of Zeus, Father of the Gods.

Evia before the devastation (Ggia / CC BY-SA 3.0 )

An article in Kite Greece recently described modern Evia Island as combining “tradition, nature, adventure and history,” with more than 900 kilometers of coastline and 12,000 acres of natural forest and woodland. The island was described as having endless sand and pebble beaches, areas of natural beauty, archaeological monuments and museums.

However, many of these features, both ancient and modern, have this weekend been turned to ashes and have blown away in the winds.

Irreplaceably Lost 

The BBC reported today that over 2000 people have now fled the inferno that was sparked after temperatures last week reached 45C (113F). Yesterday a Serbian tourist told the BBC that the island was “like an apocalyptic movie.”

All that remains of the tree (Greek City Times)

All that remains of the tree ( Greek City Times )

The blaze has destroyed thousands of hectares of virgin forest and, heartbreakingly, the ongoing wildfires have now consumed the ancient olive grove of Rovia with its famous 2,500-year-old olive tree.

The ancient olive tree was traditionally known as the “Evian tree.” According to Greek City Times it was so ancient that it was “described in antiquity by the geographer and philosopher Strabo.” It was fertile, yielding olives every year, but it started to smoke at the weekend, before finally vanishing yesterday into the wildfire.

“The Completion of A Holocaust” 

Giannis Kontzias, the mayor of the Municipality of Istiaia Aidipsos, described the fire as ”the completion of a holocaust.” The mayor told The Greek Reporter “Truth be told, we could have saved much more,” adding that he had been on the mountain from Wednesday at 2:30 PM. He said he was making “dramatic calls for more aircraft” to work at the front of the fire, that he said had been contained for 30 hours. 

Then, at the weekend “everything changed” when the wind altered direction and brought the fire towards Istiaia Aidipsos. This “multiplied the fronts,” the major explained, who only sees one solution to this situation.

He has already appealed to the Greek authorities “to bring in more aircraft.” He said ”Very few of them arrived yesterday, but they were inadequate” and without more help, he is watching his municipality “being destroyed, completely.”

A Call For Aid

Mayor Kontizas said “volunteers and the souls of the residents of the island,” are scrambling about trying to save places and objects relating to ancient Greek heritage . The major told The Greek Reporter that “Our children will never see the environment and our land in the same way we saw it.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to save the island of the Titans (sippakorn / Public Domain)

A GoFundMe page has been set up to save the island of the Titans (sippakorn / Public Domain )

This article must end with a direct call to action. An emergency GoFundMe page has been opened to help combat the wildfires and save what still remains.  

The ancient tree is physically gone, but it will live forever in the mythology of the people of Evia island. History has proven that no fire can burn the myths, stories and folklore of the people, which since their conception have always reflected the chaos and destructive powers of nature. Although these wildfires are due to the thoughtless and near-sighted actions of man, it certainly seems as if the Titans of old have returned to where they were born.

Top Image: Global warming has led to extreme weather events and much destruction in recent years. Source: FotoXS / Adobe Stock

By Ashley Cowie

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