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In Ancient Greece, a Hecatomb (Ancient Greek ἑκατόμβη / hekatómbê) was a sacrifice to the gods of 100 cattle (hecaton = one hundred). Hecatombs were offered to Greek gods Apollo, Athena, and Hera, during special religious ceremonies.[1]

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 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[.]

While uncommon, the word hecatomb can also refer to any large-scale sacrifice or slaughter, both in English and other languages. A notable modern usage of the term was that of Colombian president Álvaro Uribe, who in 2007 claimed he would only seek a controversial reelection if faced with a hecatomb ("sólo si hay una hecatombe")[2].

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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