Thursday Myths and Legends 101: Ambrosia

Nectar and Ambrosia by dancingelf (deviantart)

Ambrosia: the food or drink of the gods, said to bestow ageless immortality on whoever consumed it. The word is often used interchangeably with nectar (hence the expression, nectar of the gods), though some ancient Greek works (like Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey) clearly differentiated between the two. Either way, both are considered delectable and divine, so fragrant they can even be used as perfume.

I find the entymology of both words interesting and strangely interchangeable, because although ambrosia literally means ‘not mortal’,  nectar translated from latin means ‘drink of the gods’,  pulling from the Greek word nektar, meaning overcoming death [ nek: death; -tar: overcoming].

It’s interesting to note what it says in the Handbook of Classical Mythology by William Hansen

“A key difference between gods and humans, according to the poet Homer,lies in their respective diets. Since the gods do not, like mortals, consume bread and wine, they are bloodless, producing instead a kind of immortal fluid,a thin substance called ichor. As a consequence they do not die. When they feast, they consume nectar and ambrosia, which preserve the gods in their present state, keeping them from aging” (Clay 1983, 144–148).

That quote sparks all kinds of theories! Would the gods then become mortal if they were to stop feeding on ambrosia and nectar? Is that why they deemed the theft of them so severe they would sentence the thief to Tartarus (see the story of Tantalus). Interesting things to ponder.

Though modern works (usually Greek myths retold) often reference ambrosia, it is usually being used in the most literal sense, that of a delicious, unparalleled drink, fit only for the gods. I would love to see it used in a more magical/fantasy setting, where it can literally bestow eternity upon its drinker. Can you imagine the stories that could be told?

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About Isabelle

Isabelle is a multi-published author who dabbles in 1950s romance, speculative science fiction, and more recently fantasy and YA. A twenty something dreamer who loves chocolate, romance novels, and heart wrenching movies, Isabelle is most comfortable on stage behind a microphone belting out her favorite karaoke tunes, or curled up in bed with a book and a cup of cocoa on a rainy night. View all posts by Isabelle

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