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This article is about the mythological term. For the modern meaning, see Bile.

In Greek mythology, Ichor (/ˈkər/ or /ˈɪkər/; Ancient Greek: ἰχώρ) is the ethereal golden fluid [1] that is the blood of the gods and/or immortals.

In classical myth[edit]

Ichor originates in Greek mythology, where it is the ethereal fluid that is the Greek gods' blood, sometimes said to retain the qualities of the immortal's food and drink, ambrosia or nectar.[2] [3]

It was considered to be golden in color, as well as lethally toxic to mortals. Great demigods and heroes occasionally attacked gods and released ichor, but gods rarely did so to each other in Homeric myth.

Iliad V. 364–382[2]

    Blood follow'd, but immortal; ichor pure,
    Such as the blest inhabitants of heav'n
    May bleed, nectareous; for the Gods eat not
    Man's food, nor slake as he with sable wine
    Their thirst, thence bloodless and from death exempt. †

†   We are not to understand that the poet ascribes the immortality of the Gods to their abstinence from the drink and food of man, for most animals partake of neither, but the expression is elliptic and requires to be supplied thus—They drink not wine but nectar, eat not the food of mortals, but ambrosia; thence it is that they are bloodless and from death exempt.

W. Cowper, The Iliad of Homer, Schol. per Vill

In Ancient Greek literature Plato in Timaeus (dialogue) wrote about ichor [4] and Hippocrates in many of his patients [5] [6] [7] [8]

In Ancient Crete, tradition told of Talos, a giant man of bronze portrayed with wings. When Cretan mythology was appropriated by the Greeks, they imagined him more like the Colossus of Rhodes. He possessed a single vein running with ichor that was stoppered by a nail in his back. Talos guarded Europa on Crete and threw boulders at intruders until the Argonauts came after the acquisition of the Golden Fleece and the sorceress Medea took out the nail, releasing the ichor and killing him.

In pathology, "ichor" is an antiquated term for a watery discharge from a wound or ulcer with an unpleasant or fetid (offensive) smell.[9] The Greek Christian writer Clement of Alexandria used "ichor" in this sense in a polemic against the pagan Greek gods.[10]

In fiction[edit]

H. P. Lovecraft often used "ichor" in his descriptions of other-worldly creatures, most prominently in his nightmarish detail of the remains of Wilbur Whateley, in The Dunwich Horror. Author Ursula K. Le Guin, in From Elfland to Poughkeepsie, calls the term "the infallible touchstone of the seventh-rate."[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pseudo-Galenus Med., De urinis Volume 19, page 587, line 3 ἐκ τοῦδε φανερὸν τῶν χυμῶν οἱ μὲν ἐκ τοῦ φλέγματος γίνονται ὡς τὸ φλέγμα καὶ ἰχὼρ, οἱ δὲ μετὰ τοῦ αἵματος ὡς ἡ ξανθὴ χολὴ καὶ ὁ μέλας χυμός.
  2. ^ a b Homer, (trans. William Cowper) (1802). Johnson, John, ed. The Iliad of Homer, Translated into English Blank Verse. Volume 1. Iliad V. 364–382 (p. 153). 
  3. ^ Homerus Epic., Ilias Book 5, line 340 ῥέε δ' ἄμβροτον αἷμα θεοῖο ἰχώρ, οἷός πέρ τε ῥέει μακάρεσσι θεοῖσιν· οὐ γὰρ σῖτον ἔδουσ', οὐ πίνουσ' αἴθοπα οἶνον, τοὔνεκ' ἀναίμονές εἰσι καὶ ἀθάνατοι καλέονται.
  4. ^ Plato Phil., Timaeus Stephanus page 83, section c, line 5 καὶ τὸ μὲν κοινὸν ὄνομα πᾶσιν τούτοις ἤ τινες ἰατρῶν που χολὴν ἐπωνόμασαν, ἢ καί τις ὢν δυνατὸς εἰς πολλὰ μὲν καὶ ἀνόμοια βλέπειν, ὁρᾶν δὲ ἐν αὐτοῖς ἓν γένος ἐνὸν ἄξιον ἐπωνυμίας πᾶσιν· τὰ δ' ἄλλα ὅσα χολῆς εἴδη λέγεται, κατὰ τὴν χρόαν ἔσχεν λόγον αὐτῶν ἕκαστον ἴδιον. ἰχὼρ δέ, ὁ μὲν αἵματος ὀρὸς πρᾷος, ὁ δὲ μελαίνης χολῆς ὀξείας τε ἄγριος, ὅταν συμμειγνύηται διὰ θερμότητα ἁλμυρᾷ δυνάμει· καλεῖται δὲ ὀξὺ φλέγμα τὸ τοιοῦτον.
  5. ^ Hippocrates et Corpus Hippocraticum Med., De morbis popularibus (= Epidemiae) Book 5, chapter 1, section 101, line 2 Γυναικὶ, ἐν Ἀβδήροισι, καρκίνωμα ἐγένετο περὶ τὸ στῆ- θος, καὶ διὰ τῆς θηλῆς ἔῤῥεεν ἰχὼρ ὕφαιμος· ἐπιληφθείσης δὲ τῆς ῥύσιος, ἔθανεν.
  6. ^ Hippocrates et Corpus Hippocraticum Med., De morbis popularibus (= Epidemiae) Book 7, chapter 1, section 35, line 6 Καὶ τῷ Φανίου καὶ τῷ Εὐέργου· πελιαινομένων δὲ τῶν ὀστέων καὶ πυρεταινόντων, ἀφίστατο τὸ δέρμα ἀπὸ τοῦ ὀστέου, καὶ πῦον ὑπεμένετο· τούτοισι τρυπωμένοισιν ἐξ αὐτοῦ τοῦ ὀστέου ἀνήρχετο ἰχὼρ λεπτὸς, ὀῤῥώδης, ὕπωχρος, κάκοδμος, θανάσιμος.
  7. ^ Hippocrates et Corpus Hippocraticum Med., De morbis popularibus (= Epidemiae) Book 7, chapter 1, section 36, line 5 Μετὰ δὲ τὴν ἑβδόμην ἐξῄει ἰχὼρ ἐπιεικῶς· μετὰ ταῦτα τῇ γλώσσῃ οὐ πάντα ἔφη δύνασθαι ἑρμηνεύειν· πρόῤῥησις· ὀπισθότονος· ξυνεφέροντο αἱ γνάθοι ξυνερειδόμεναι, ἔπειτα ἐς τράχηλον, τριταῖος ὅλος ἐσπᾶτο ἐς τοὐπίσω ξὺν ἱδρῶτι· ἑκταῖος ἀπὸ τῆς προῤῥήσιος ἀπέθανεν.
  8. ^ Hippocrates et Corpus Hippocraticum Med., De morbis popularibus (= Epidemiae) Book 7, chapter 1, section 52, line 7 Ἡγησιπόλιος παιδίον σχεδὸν τέσσαρας μῆνας ἄλγημα περὶ ὀμφαλὸν βρωτικὸν εἶχεν· προϊόντος δὲ, ἐπέτεινεν ἡ ὀδύνη, ἔκοπτε τὴν γαστέρα, ἐτίλλετο, θέρμαι ἐπελάμβανον· ἐτήκετο· ὀστέα ἐλεί- φθη· τὰ πόδια ἐπῴδει, ὄρχιες· γαστρὸς τὸ περὶ ὀμφαλὸν πεφυση- μένον ἄρα, οἷον οἷσι μέλλουσι κοιλίαι ἐκταράσσεσθαι· ἀπόσιτος ἐγένετο, γάλα μοῦνον προσεδέχετο· ὑπόγυον, καὶ ἡ κοιλίη καθυγράνθη, καὶ ὕφαιμος ἰχὼρ ὑπῄει κάκοδμος· κοιλίη ἐπίμπρατο.
  9. ^ ichor - definition of ichor by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia
  10. ^ Clemens Alexandrinus Theol., Protrepticus Chapter 2, section 36, subsection 3, line 3 Εἰ δὴ τραύματα, καὶ αἵματα· οἱ γὰρ ἰχῶρες οἱ ποιητικοὶ εἰδεχθέστεροι καὶ τῶν αἱμάτων, σῆψις γὰρ αἵματος ἰχὼρ νοεῖται.
  11. ^ Ursula K. Le Guin, From Elfland to Poughkeepsie, p 80 The Language of the Night ISBN 0-425-05205-2
  12. ^ Origenes Theol., Contra Celsum Book 1, section 66, line 13 Παίζων γοῦν τὸ ἐπὶ τῷ σταυρῷ προχυθὲν αἷμα τοῦ Ἰησοῦ φησιν ὅτι οὐκ ἦν ἰχώρ, οἷός περ τε ῥέει μακάρεσσι θεοῖσιν.

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of ichor at Wiktionary