Sources state that in the first Olympics the winners received an apple as a prize. After that the winners acclaimed a kotinos, an olive wreath made of twigs of the sacred olive tree that grew at Olympia, near the temple of Zeus.

In the Panathenaic games, the Erechtheion olive and the wreaths made of its branches played a significant role. The sacred procession in the streets of Athens was attended by thallaforoi, wise, old and handsome men carrying young olive-shoots. Athenians, who considered themselves civilized, carried olive branches, while emancipated slaves and barbarians carried oak branches, as the oak is a symbol of primitive culture, strength and resistance.