Ambrosia has several different meanings in today’s world. Not only is it a dessert salad made of fruits and marshmallows, but it’s also a word used to describe delicious food. Ambrosia’s origins, however, are rooted in Greek mythology.
Ambrosia: A Nymph That Turned Into Food
According to Greek legend, in the beginning, Ambrosia was a wood nymph. Unfortunately for her, Lycurgus of Thrace clashed with the wine God Dionysus; poor Ambrosia got caught in the middle of the fray, died, and then transformed into a vine.
After the change, so the story goes, doves carried the delicious ambrosia “vine food” to the gods on Mount Olympus.
Ambrosia: A Honey-Like Food For The Gods
After transforming from a nymph into a victual-producing vine, ambrosia became one of the gods’ two favorite foods. The other was nectar.
For years, scholars were split on whether ambrosia was a liquid beverage or solid food. Confusion arose because stories from the time described the delicacy in different ways. For example, Homer typically characterized ambrosia as a morsel of food. However, in the ancient Greek play Knights, the comic Aristophanes said, “I dreamed the goddess poured ambrosia over your head—out of a ladle.”
These days, however, historians who concentrate on Greek mythology are reasonably confident that ancient ambrosia had the consistency of honey.
Ambrosia: Easy On The Nose
Not only did the Greek gods feast on ambrosia, but they also used it as a strong perfume. Take, for example, Menelaus and his men in the Odyssey: They disguised themselves in seal skins to evade detection. Unfortunately for the soldiers, the “deadly smell of the seal skin vexed” their senses. So, to help out, a goddess bearing ambrosia descended from the heavens. The men slathered it on themselves and the ambrosia’s scent successfully overpowered the seal stench.
Whether a solid food, drink or perfume, ambrosia played a prominent role in Greek literary history and mythology.
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