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Wildfire Threatens Ancient Greek Olive Grove in Amfissa Near Delphi

Olive grove Amfissa Delphi
The famous olive groves of Amfissa and Itea are burning. Credit: Facebook/Gogo Athanasiou

The Olive Grove of Amfissa, near Delphi, which has been damaged by the wildfire that broke out on Monday near the town of Itea is the largest continuous grove in Greece with over 1.2 million trees whose age has been lost in the lapse of centuries.

Firefighters and volunteers battled with the flames through the night in Amfissa, taking advantage of the improved weather conditions to arrest the fire’s path of destruction to the Sernikaki and Profitis Ilias areas by Tuesday morning.

Efforts were also being made to contain a fire front heading toward Itea, which was still burning areas near Galaxidi, while a second front was heading toward Delphi.

“We are concerned about the front from Itea to Agia Efthymia,” said deputy regional governor Giorgos Delmouzos, who noted that the resumed operation of fire-fighting aircraft was expected to help.

The Olive Grove stretches out across 5,500 hectares from the town of Amfissa to the Corinthian Gulf and from the village of Erateini to the village Kirra. It is the largest continuous olive grove in Greece and part of the famous Delphi landscape.

Olive grove Amfissa Delphi
The map of the area where the massive olive grove is located between Amfissa and Itea and west of Delphi.

The earliest information indicates wild olives were harvested at the Amfissa Olive Grove as far back as the Neolithic Age. However, according to some sources, it was the Pelasgians who first planted olive trees here in prehistoric times. Since then, the use of the land has not changed, no matter how many occupiers have gone by.

It is a single cultivation, non-linear plantation of old trees (70 percent of them are over 150 years old). Their trunks have deep folds, their foliage is rich, and many of them are as high as ten meters.

Amfissa Olive Grove is part of the Delphi landscape, a UNESCO site

Today, a large part of the Olive Grove is an integral part of the Delphi Landscape, which is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Olive grove Amfissa Delphi
A view of the olive grove. Credit: Paul Stephenson, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0/Wikipedia

The Amfissa Olive Grove is part of the Delphi Landscape, an area stretching from the Delphi archaeological site to the town of Itea, including the valley of Pleistos.

In ancient times, Pleistos and Ylaithos, two rivers that are now dry creeks, flowed into that valley. The area fauna is mostly shrubland, but a large part of it, possibly half of the expanse, is covered by olive groves.

These olive trees were the result of wild olive grafting and belong to the famous Amfissa olive variety. They have a special round shape, can be found in green and black, and have many uses in the food industry, as they are available whole, cut, and stuffed.

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