(ORDO NEWS) — Many mythologies have stories of divine food. In Greek myth, the mysterious products of ambrosia and nectar were the food of the gods; they also played a deeper, more important role in the lives of Olympians. They were much more than mere food for divine dinners…
Ambrosia and nectar were served to the Greek deities by their butlers, such as Ganymede or Hebe, daughter of Zeus. At the feasts of the Olympians, huge quantities of both were consumed.
It was generally believed that ambrosia was food and nectar was drink, and that they were very sweet. However, some sources state that nectar was food and ambrosia was drink.
However, it is widely believed that both were varieties of honey, although it was also said in antiquity that each was derived from herbs. No one knows where the ambrosia and nectar came from, but according to myths, white doves delivered them to Mount Olympus every morning.
Drinking ambrosia and nectar was not just a pleasure. It was vital to the immortality of the Olympian deities. It was believed that by drinking ambrosia or nectar, the blood of the Olympians was converted into a substance known as ichor.
In myths, it is the divine life force that made the gods immortal. The gods had to consume ambrosia and nectar regularly to keep their blood turning into ichor. If this did not happen, they weakened and ceased to be immortal.
For example, when Demeter was looking for her kidnapped daughter Persephone, she did not consume nectar and ambrosia, and her divine powers and immortality faded and then disappeared.
Nectar and ambrosia were meant only for the gods. It was assumed that if mortals consumed them, they would become immortal. Tantalus was the son of Zeus and a mortal woman and tried to steal ambrosia and nectar to make himself immortal.
He was caught stealing food and drink from the Olympians and was banished to Tartarus in the underworld for all eternity.
However, there are many cases where mortals received the food of the gods and did not become immortal. This is because in order to become immortal, a mortal had to regularly consume large amounts of nectar and ambrosia.
Sometimes the gods gave their food to their pets so that they too could become immortal. In one of the myths, Athena was going to give the hero Tydeus some ambrosia.
However, she stopped when she learned that Tydeus, in his rage, had eaten the brains of a defeated enemy – a disgusting act that made him unworthy of immortality.
We can also understand what ambrosia and nectar are by looking at some of the great literary works of the Greeks. For example, in Book V of the Iliad, when Aphrodite, the goddess of love, is wounded by the hero Diomedes, her wounds are treated with ambrosia.
Later in the Iliad we see another use of nectar and ambrosia: they were used to anoint the dead. After the death of Patroclus, his body was cleansed with ambrosia so that it would not decompose.
Elsewhere in Homer, in the Odyssey, there are several instances where wine and food are compared to the food of the gods. Cyclops Polyphemus, for example, compared the wine given to him by Odysseus to nectar.
In addition, in Hesiod’s Theogony, after Zeus freed the Cyclopes and the Hekatonchires (hundred-armed) from Tartarus, he restored their health by giving them ambrosia.
Even outside the Greek world, there are many references to the food of the gods in Latin literature, as well as in later writings, such as Renaissance poets.
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