The ancient tree, which stood on the Sacred Way between Athens and the town of Elefsina, originally reached 15 feet in height, but was hit by a bus in 1976. The surviving parts of the tree were replanted, took root and started growing again. It is believed that the tree was cut down for firewood by desperate Greeks who, among their current economic woes, have been hit by a big tax hike on heating oil. The felling of trees has been a widespread problem in woods and even city parks this winter.
Legend says that Plato, who lived from 427 to 347 BC, often sat in the shade of the tree while teaching his pupils about his philosophy of man’s role in the universe and relationship with the state. While there is no conclusive evidence that he did, the remains of Plato’s Academy were found close to the tree during excavations in 1931. It is thought it was among the 12 olive trees that marked the 12 gated entrances to the Academy; this part of Athens is still named ‘Eleonas’, meaning ‘olive grove’."
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