AMBROSIA, in ancient mythology, sometimes the food, sometimes the drink of the gods. The word has generally been derived from Gr. a, not, and mbrotos, mortal; hence the food or drink of the immortals. A. W. Verrall, however, denies that there is any clear example in which the word ambrosios necessarily means “immortal,” and prefers to explain it as “fragrant,” a sense which is always suitable; cf. W. Leaf, Iliad (2nd ed.), on the phrase ambrosios upuos (ii. 18). If so, the word may be derived from the Semitic ambar (ambergris) to which Eastern nations attribute miraculous properties. 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. Derivatively the word Ambrosia (neut. plur.) was given to certain festivals in honor of Dionysus, probably because of the predominance of feasting in connection with them.
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