Ambrosia And Nectar
The Food and the Drink of the Greek Gods
Ambrosia was the food of the gods and goddesses in Greek mythology. It was often accompanied by the drink nectar in celebrations, and indeed, ambrosia and nectar both appear in myth and literature as divine confections that were guaranteed to satisfy the hunger and/or thirst of any immortal resident of Mt. Olympus.
While scholars are not entirely certain what the ancient Greeks thought the composition of ambrosia (or its liquid counterpart, for that matter) actually was, it is believed that these mythical items had some connection to a sweet treat enjoyed by mortals throughout the ages - honey. Honey was highly regarded by the people of ancient Greece, so this suggestion makes sense.
Ambrosia made more than just a delightful meal, however. There are several episodes in Greek myth in which ambrosia is used by the gods and goddesses as a sort of balm, to confer grace or even immortality (in the case of mortals) onto the recipient. One such incident that demonstrates how ambrosia was used to beautify involves Aphrodite, the enchanting goddess of love. In the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, the goddess prepares herself for some serious seduction with the assistance of eau de ambrosia:
"...there the Graces bathed her and anointed her
with ambrosian oil such as is rubbed on deathless gods,
divinely sweet, and made fragrant for her sake."
And while this may have been an example of gilding the lily (Aphrodite already being irresistible), ambrosia played a more serious part in other myths. In one poignant and memorable scene from Homer's Iliad, the sea-nymph Thetis uses ambrosia and nectar to preserve the body of the dead warrior Patroclus. In the same epic, Zeus calls upon Apollo to anoint another fallen hero - this time, Sarpedon - with ambrosia.
The connection that has derived ambrosia from the Greek prefix a- ("not") and the word brotos ("mortal"), hence the food or drink of the immortals.
Nectar is derived from Greek nectar, the favored drink of the gods, which in turn is the Latinized version of its current meaning, "sweet liquid in flowers", established in AD 1600.
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