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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Hecatomb \Hec"a*tomb\, n. [L. hecatombe, Gr. ?; ? hundred + ? ox: cf. F. h['e]catombe.] (Antiq.) A sacrifice of a hundred oxen or cattle at the same time; hence, the sacrifice or slaughter of any large number of victims.

Slaughtered hecatombs around them bleed.

More than a human hecatomb.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1590s, from Greek hekatombe "offering of 100 oxen," but generally "a great public sacrifice," from hekaton "one hundred" (perhaps from hen, neuter of eis "one" + *katon "hundred") + bous "ox." The first month of the Attic calendar (corresponding to July-August) was Hekatombaion, in which sacrifices were made.


n. 1 (context historical English) In ancient Greece or Rome, a great feast and public sacrifice to the gods, originally of a hundred oxen. 2 Any great sacrifice; a great number of people, animals or things, especially as sacrificed or destroyed; a large amount.


n. a great sacrifice; an ancient Greek or Roman sacrifice of 100 oxen


In Ancient Greece, a hecatomb ( or ; hekatómbē) was a sacrifice to the gods of 100 cattle (hekaton = one hundred, bous = bull). In practice, as few as 12 could make up a hecatomb. Hecatombs were offered to Greek gods Apollo, Athena, and Hera, during special religious ceremonies. At the end of the Olympic Games, a hecatomb was also offered to Zeus at Olympia.

In the Iliad hecatombs are described formulaically. The following is one instance, from Samuel Butler's translation:

[T]hey ranged the holy hecatomb all orderly round the altar of the god. They washed their hands and took up the barley-meal to sprinkle over the victims [cattle], while [the priest] lifted up his hands and prayed aloud on their behalf. ... When they had done praying and sprinkling the barley-meal, they drew back the heads of the victims (Cattle) and killed and flayed them. They cut out the thigh-bones, wrapped them round in two layers of fat, set some pieces of raw meat on the top of them, and then [the priest] laid them on the wood fire and poured wine over them, while the young men stood near him with five-pronged spits in their hands. When the thigh-bones were burned and they had tasted the inward meats, they cut the rest up small, put the pieces upon the spits, roasted them till they were done, and drew them off: then, when they had finished their work and the feast was ready, they ate it, and every man had his full share, so that all were satisfied. As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink, pages filled the mixing-bowl with wine and water and handed it round, after giving every man his drink-offering. Thus all day long the young men worshipped the god with song, hymning him and chaunting the joyous paean, and the god took pleasure in their voices[.]
Hecatomb (card game)

Hecatomb was a collectible card game created by Wizards of the Coast. The base set of 144 cards was released on August 18, 2005 at the annual Gen Con Indy. The game is unique in its use of five-sided, stackable cards made of durable plastic as opposed to conventional paper. The original concept for the game is credited to Paul Barclay, Brandon Bozzi, Mike Elliott, Aaron Forsythe, and Robert Gutschera.

Usage examples of "hecatomb".

Margren and for an instant she saw Isranon: he stood upon the highest tier of an edifice similar to the Altar of Hecatomb with a staff of incredible power, calling down the winds, the lances of sunfire, and lightning to destroy the altars of darkness.

Instead they showed Aejys hanging in chains on the topmost tier of the altar of hecatomb as Margren shoved a dagger into her stomach.

The scene in the chamber of hecatomb now repeated itself in miniature on the central while continuing to play across the others.

It was only by such preventive steps that one could put a stop to the frightful hecatomb of newly-born infants, that incessant loss of life which exhausted the nation and brought it nearer and nearer to death every day.

But even when they came back alive they carried with them the germs of death, and another hecatomb ensued, another sacrifice to the monstrous god of social egotism.

June 4 and a veritable hecatomb followed as the Germans took savage revenge, after the manner of the old Teutonic rites, for the death of their hero.

They were human scalps, collected by himself, in the course of many campaigns, and brought, as a species of hecatomb, to the graves of the fallen.

The beauty of this woman who had hastened from that hecatomb to perfume her body and deck it with silk had no power of appeal to him.

And all through history it had been this way, Can-dace realized: that the crimes of the wicked paled into insignificance before the hecatombs piled up by the righteous, the self-appointed just.

Requitest for knee-worship, prayer, and praise, And toil, and hecatombs of broken hearts, With fear and self-contempt and barren hope.

The horrible hecatombs that commemorate the death of any powerful chief in Central Africa defy all description.

Then all the people from the battlement Beheld what dreadful things Achilles wrought, For on the body his revenge he spent, The anger of the high Gods heeding nought, To whom was Hector dearest, while he fought, Of all the Trojan men that were their joy, But now no more their favour might be bought By savour of his hecatombs in Troy.

Yet first within Aegyptus must they be, And hecatombs must offer,--quickly then The Gods abated of their jealousy, Wherewith they scourge the negligence of men.

The Greeks in beginning their wall had neglected the hecatombs due to the gods, and so after the fall of Troy Apollo turned the paths of the rivers that flow from Ida and sent them flooding over the wall, till all the beach was smooth and free from the unhallowed works of the Greeks.

She found his Homer, with its slaughters and hecatombs and barbaric feastings and headstrong passions, violent and coarse.