Personifications: Nysa, Anatrofi, Nymphs, Tropheus, Ambrosia, Hermes and Dionysus, Nektar and Theogonia, Paphos Mosaics

In ancient mythology, Ambrosia (Greek αμβροσία, Αμβροσία ) is sometimes the food, sometimes the drink, of the gods. The word has generally been derived from Greek a- ("not") and mbrotos ("mortal"); hence the food or drink of the immortals. The classical scholar Arthur Woollgar Verrall, however, denied that there is any clear example in which the word ambrosios necessarily means immortal, and preferred to explain it as "fragrant," a sense which is always suitable. If so, the word may be derived from the Semitic MBR ("amber", compare "ambergris") to which Eastern nations attribute miraculous properties. In Europe, honey-colored amber, sometimes far from its source, was already a grave gift in Neolithic times and was still worn in the 7th century AD as a talisman by druidic Frisians, though St Eligius warned "No woman should presume to hang amber from her neck." W. H. Roscher thinks that both nectar and ambrosia were kinds of honey, in which case their power of conferring immortality would be due to the supposed healing and cleansing power of honey, and because fermented honey (mead) preceded wine as an entheogen in the Aegean world: the Great Goddess of Crete on some Minoan seals had a bee face: compare Merope and Melissa.

"Examples of Ambrosia in Mythology

Thetis anointed the infant Achilles with ambrosia and passed the child through the fire to make him immortal—a familiar Phoenician custom—but Peleus, appalled, stopped her.

In Iliad xvi, Apollo washed the black blood from the corpse of Sarpedon and anointed it with ambrosia, readied for its dreamlike return to Sarpedon's native Lycia.

In the Odyssey, Homer describes Calypso as having "spread a table with ambrosia and set it by Hermes, and mixed the rosy-red nectar." It is ambiguous whether he means the nectar itself is rosy-red, or if he is describing a rosy-red nectar Hermes drinks along with the ambrosia. Later, Circe mentions to Odysseus that a flock of doves are the bringers of ambrosia to Olympus.

One of the impieties of Tantalus, according to Pindar, was that he offered to his guests the ambrosia of the Deathless Ones, a theft akin to that of Prometheus, Karl Kerenyi noted (in Heroes of the Greeks). caria.


  • Ruck, Carl A.P. and Danny Staples, The World of Classical Myth 1994.
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica

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