I seem to remember a particular ancient Greek myth that used to explain how animal sacrifices to the Olympian gods were performed. In particular, when poultry or mammals was sacrificed, the humans would keep the meat of the animal to them, and burn the less tasty parts (skins, fats, and entrails) for the gods to smell. I cannot find this myth now.

What myths describe the general procedure of sacrifices to the Olympian gods, as in, what goods should be sacrificed and how, and give the mythical origin explaining these habits?


1 Answer 1


The myth you're looking for is first outlined in Hesiod's Theogony.

Theogony 535-558:

[535] For when the gods and mortal men had a dispute at Mecone, even then Prometheus was forward to cut up a great ox and set portions before them, trying to deceive the mind of Zeus. Before the rest he set flesh and inner parts thick with fat upon the hide, covering them with an ox paunch; [540] but for Zeus he put the white bones dressed up with cunning art and covered with shining fat. Then the father of men and of gods said to him: “Son of Iapetus, most glorious of all lords, good sir, how unfairly you have divided the portions!” [545] So said Zeus whose wisdom is everlasting, rebuking him. But wily Prometheus answered him, smiling softly and not forgetting his cunning trick: “Zeus, most glorious and greatest of the eternal gods, take which ever of these portions your heart within you bids.” [550] So he said, thinking trickery. But Zeus, whose wisdom is everlasting, saw and failed not to perceive the trick, and in his heart he thought mischief against mortal men which also was to be fulfilled. With both hands he took up the white fat and was angry at heart, and wrath came to his spirit [555] when he saw the white ox-bones craftily tricked out: and because of this the tribes of men upon earth burn white bones to the deathless gods upon fragrant altars.

Translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White


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