Herodotus describes the following story which is relevant to the olive wreath. Xerxes was interrogating some Arcadians after the Battle of Thermopylae. He inquired why there were so few Greek men defending the Thermopylae. The answer was “All other men are participating in the Olympic Games”.
And when asked “What is the prize for the winner?”, “An olive-wreath” came the answer. Then Tigranes, one of his generals uttered a most noble saying:”Good heavens! Mardonius, what kind of men are these against whom you have brought us to fight? Men who do not compete for possessions, but forvirtue.
Aristophanes in Plutus makes a humorous comment on victorious athletes who are crowned with wreath made of wild olive instead of gold:
Why, Zeus is poor, and I will clearly prove it to you. In the Olympic games, which he founded, and to which he convokes the whole of Greece every four years, why does he only crown the victorious athletes with wild olive? If he were rich he would give them gold.
The victorious athletes were honoured, feted, and praised. Their deeds were heralded and chronicled so that future generations could appreciate their accomplishments. In fact, the names of the Olympic winners formed the chronology basis of the ancient world, as arranged by Timaeus in his work, The Histories.