This is a loading screen hint from the game Assasin's Creed Odyssey:

Gods bless you. A sneeze at a key moment was seen as an omen in ancient Greece. Since it was involuntary, the action was viewed as a sign from the gods.

Is this correct?


2 Answers 2


Xenophon's Anabasis

Reading Xenophon's Anabasis the sneeze of a soldier in his army while giving a speech was interpreted as a clear sign of the god(s), in this case the god in question was Zeus Soter as noted below.

“The perjury and faithlessness of the barbarians has been spoken of by Cleanor and is understood, I imagine, by the rest of you. If, then, it is our desire to be again on terms of friendship with them, we must needs feel great despondency when we see the fate of our generals, who trustingly put themselves in their hands; but if our intention is to rely upon our arms, and not only to inflict punishment upon them for their past deeds, but henceforth to wage implacable war with them, we have—the gods willing—many fair hopes of deliverance (σωτηρίας).”Xenophon. Anabasis. Book 3, chapter 2, paragraph 8. from Perseus

As he was saying this a man sneezed,1 and when the soldiers heard it, they all with one impulse made obeisance to the god 2; and Xenophon said, “I move, gentlemen, since at the moment when we were talking about deliverance an omen from Zeus the Saviour was revealed to us, that we make a vow to sacrifice to that god thank-offerings for deliverance as soon as we reach a friendly land; and that we add a further vow to make sacrifices, to the extent of our ability, to the other gods also. All who are in favour of this motion,” he said, “will raise their hands.” And every man in the assembly raised his hand. Thereupon they made their vows and struck up the paean. These ceremonies duly performed, Xenophon began again with these words: Xenophon. Anabasis. Book 3, chapter 2, paragraph 9. from Perseus

1 The sneeze was a lucky sign, and particularly lucky because it came at just the time when Xenophon was uttering the word σωτηρίας, “deliverance.”

2 Zeus Soter, who was presumed to have sent the omen.

Homer's Odyssey

In Homer's Odyssey Penelope talks about the return of Odysseus when he will punish her suitors for the deeds they have done. while saying this Telemachus (who was born just before Odysseus was called to fight in the Trojan War.) sneezes loudly. Penelope interprets this sneeze as a sign and literally says that the fact that her son sneezed at all her words means none of the suitors will escape their fate when her husband comes home.

But as for these men, let them make sport as they sit in the doorway or here in the house, since their hearts are merry. For their own possessions lie untouched in their homes, bread and sweet wine, and on these do their servants feed. But themselves throng our house day after day, [535] slaying our oxen, and sheep, and fat goats, and keep revel and drink the flaming wine recklessly, and havoc is made of all this wealth, for there is no man here such as Odysseus was to keep ruin from the house. But if Odysseus should come and return to his native land, [540] straightway would he with his son take vengeance on these men for their violent deeds.”So she spoke, and Telemachus sneezed loudly, and all the room round about echoed wondrously. And Penelope laughed, and straightway spoke to Eumaeus winged words: “Go, pray, call the stranger here before me. [545] Dost thou not note that my son has sneezed at all my words. Therefore shall utter death fall upon the wooers one and all, nor shall one of them escape death and the fates. And another thing will I tell thee, and do thou lay it to heart. If I find that he speaks all things truly, Homer's Odyssey Book 17 pages 541-550 from Perseus

Looking at both examples the sneeze is clearly seen as a sign from the god(s) and looked upon favorably.

  • 2
    Great answer thanks. Happy new year!
    – yannis
    Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 0:39
  • 1
    @yannis No problem! And to you as well. By the way if you happen to play AC Odyssey I can warmly recommend the historic tours, they really did a good job of visualizing ancient Greece.
    – Tom Sol
    Commented Jan 2, 2021 at 22:17

I first became interested in this topic when pondering Job 41:18 (KJV) - "By his neesings [sneezings] a light doth shine,...."

When searching for 'nose quotes' there were some intriguing finds.

  1. A nose that can see is worth two that sniff. Eugene Ionesco
  2. It is a golden maxim to cultivate the garden for the nose, and the eyes will take care of themselves. Robert Louis Stevenson
  3. An inch in a man's nose is much. H.G. Bohn

"May the Bird of Paradise fly up your nose."

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.