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Hecatomb Drawing

Drawing showing the ceremony of "Hecatomb" (the sacrifice of one hundred bulls) at the great altar of Zeus Olympios, The santuary of Zeus Olympios.

CC Flickr User carolemage1.
Definition: Hecatomb refers to a sacrifice of 100 bulls/oxen, although it could also be used to refer in general to any large sacrifice. Such great sacrifices led to great feasting for the people, since it was the smoke that the gods were thought to appreciate (mythologically explained by one of Prometheus' tricks); while the people ate what was left over -- the meat. Promising a hecatomb was a costly vow leaders might make to ensure divinely-aided success in their undertakings.

Also see:

Alternate Spellings: ἑκατόμβη, hekatomb
  1. "And the men arranged the sacred hecatomb
    for the god in orderly fashion around the strong-founded altar."
  2. "'Chryses, I was sent here by the lord of men Agamemnon
    to lead back your daughter and accomplish a sacred hecatomb
    to Apollo on behalf of the Danaans, that we may propitiate
    the lord who has heaped unhappiness and tears on the Argives.'"

    Iliad I.447-48, 442-445

  3. "A vast number of young men -- for the festival is called a panegyris -- assembled at Argos, and marched in armour to the temple of the goddess. They were preceded by one hundred oxen (ἑκατόμβη, whence the festival is also called ἑκατόμβαια)."
    "Heraia", A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin, Ed.

  4. In Plutarch's Life of Marius section 26 ff, Marius vows a hecatomb for victory over the Cimbri:

    "Meanwhile the infantry of the Barbarians came on to the attack like a vast sea in motion. Then Marius, after washing his hands, lifted them to heaven and vowed a hecatomb to the gods; Catulus also in like manner lifted his hands and vowed that he would consecrate the fortune of that day. It is said, too, that Marius offered sacrifice, and that when the victims had been shown to him, he cried with a loud voice: "Mine is the victory.""

    He won.

  5. Philo (Legat. II 598) says the Jews offered a hecatomb for Caligula.

  6. In his commentary on the Satires of Juvenal John E. B. Mayor says that the father of Herodes Atticus often offered a hecatomb to the goddess Athena.

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