Ambrosia. in Hellenic mythology it's the food of the Gods, but it is also so much more. Today I would like to spend a little time getting some source material together on it. It's been on my mind due to some off-handed comment about fruit (I love fruit and, to a friend, I remarked that it's 'ambrosia from the Gods' to me) and so that means it's now on your mind as well!

Ambrosia (ἀμβροσία) literally translates as 'immortality'. Ambrosia is very closely related to the Gods' other form of sustenance, nectar (νέκταρ', 'death overcoming', where ambrosia is usually the food and nectar the drink of the Theoi.

The two terms may not have originally been distinguished. In Hómēros', this holds true, but in Alcman, nectar is the food, and in Sappho and Anaxandrides, ambrosia is the drink. Among later writers, ambrosia has been so often used with generic meanings of 'delightful liquid' that such late writers as Athenaeus, Paulus and Dioscurides employ it as a technical terms in contexts of cookery, medicine, and botany. Both are said to smell divine (pun intended), and both are brought to Olympos by doves.

In general, both ambrosia and nectar were the standard food of those with Ichor in their veins. In Hellenic mythology, ichor (ἰχώρ) is the ethereal fluid that is the blood of the Gods and other immortals. It is sometimes said to retain the qualities of the immortal's food and drink, ambrosia or nectar. It was considered to be golden in color, as well as lethally toxic to mortals. Because They have ichor in Their veins, not blood, They are immortal, or--perhaps better said--only immortal beings have ichor coursing through their veins; mortal beings have blood.From the Iliad:

"The point tore through the ambrosial robe which the Graces had woven for her [Aphrodite], and pierced the skin between her wrist and the palm of her hand, so that the immortal blood, or ichor, that flows in the veins of the blessed gods, came pouring from the wound; for the gods do not eat bread nor drink wine, hence they have no blood such as ours, and are immortal." [BK. V]

When brought into contact with mortals, both ambrosia and nectar act as near-miracle substances. Ascribed to them when consumed or even rubbed onto the skin are:
  • Provide apotheosis; make mortals mmortal, and thus provide immortality to mortals (in the case of Hēraklēs, for example, and Demophon at the hands of Demeter)
  • Act as a magical anti-aging cream--mostly for women (as with Penelope)
  • Act as an anguent, a soothing preparation spread on wounds, burns, rashes, abrasions or other topical injuries in order to heal them
  • Act as a balming agent to preserve the corpses of fallen mortals.
Both ambrosia and nectar appear in many ancient writings and they play an important role--both positivelty as negatively--in mythology. Ambrosia gets stolen and mortals punished, Gods get interrupted while applying it anfd thus mortals can't become immortal, etc. As with anything to do with the Theoi in mythology, messing with ambrosia and nectar is often more trouble than the consequences are worth. Unless, of course, it turns you into a God. Then it's worth the very steep price that always has to be paid for it through the completion of various, gueling, quests.