Nectar was, according to the early poets, the wine or drink of the gods, which was poured out to them by Hebe or Ganymede, and the color of which is described as red.1 Like the wine of mortals it was mixed with water when it was drunk, and the wine which Odysseus had carried with him is called by Polyphemus the cream of nectar (ἀπορρὼξ νέκταρος).2

Later writers sometimes by nectar understand a fragrant balm which prevents the decomposition of organic bodies, as, in fact, even in Homer,3 Thetis prevents the body of Patroclus becoming decomposed by anointing it with ambrosia and nectar.4 Some of the ancient poets, moreover, described nectar not as the drink, but as the food of the immortals, that is, they made it the same as ambrosia.5

The nectarine, a peach variety, is called so because it is as "sweet as nectar."



  1. Homer. Iliad iv, 3; Odyssey v, 93, 195 ff.; Ovid. Metamorphoses x, 161.
  2. Odyssey ix, 359.
  3. Iliad xix, 39.
  4. comp. Ovid. Metamorphoses iv, 250.
  5. Athenaeus, ii, p. 39; Eustathius on Homer, p. 1632.


  • Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.

This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.