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In ancient mythology, Ambrosia 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. 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. 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", which when burned is resinously fragrant; compare "ambergris") to which Eastern nations attribute miraculous properties.
In Europe, honey-coloured amber, sometimes far from its natural source, was already a grave gift in Neolithic times and was still worn in the 7th century CE 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, which is in fact aseptic, 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.
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). Circe mentioned to Odysseus that a flock of doves brought the ambrosia to Olympus.
Derivatively, the word Ambrosia (neuter plural) was given to certain festivals in honour of Dionysus, probably because of the predominance of feasting in connection with them.
"Ambrosia" is related to the Hindu amrita, a drink which conferred immortality on the gods.
In Greek mythology, one of the Hyades.
Many modern scholars, including Danny Staples, relate ambrosia to the hallucinogenic mushroom Amanita muscaria.
In the television series Xena: Warrior Princess, Ambrosia is a jelly-like subtance that is hidden with the treasure of the Titans. Four clues are needed to locate it, and upon eating it, one becomes immortal. Xena destroys it for fear of it falling into the wrong hands.
In the new Battlestar Galactica (where the setting heavily influences Greek mythology) the commonly drinked green alcoholic beverage is called Ambrosia.