The Odyssey, a Greek epic poem written by Homer in the 8th century BC that is set in Ancient Greece, has important motifs including hospitality and the treatment of travelers and strangers. These recurring themes are frequently represented throughout the novel when Odysseus and Telemakhos appear at the doors of his various hosts, demonstrating how inhospitable the suitors are. In The Odyssey, good people are shown to be kind to Odysseus while he is disguised as a beggar; they welcome him home and await his return.
Those who abuse hospitality in some manner, wish Odysseus dead, and are cruel to the beggar. In the Odyssey, hospitality is defined by the boundary between good and evil. Telemakhos is given a warm welcome wherever he goes, as demonstrated by his acceptance into the town of Ithaka’s meeting (20-21). Another example of Telemakhos being received by everyone is when Telemakhos visits Menaleoss’s home.
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When Menelaos is asked whether they will be receiving Telemakhos, he replies, If other people had never fed us, given us shelter? / Bring these men as guests: untie their team! (54) As soon as Menelaos utters this, Telemakhos is once again fed. But he is welcome because Menelaos would never turn down Odysseus’ son. Because Athena made the trip easier for him , Telemakhos may have been given hospitality by many different individuals on his short journey.
Finally, Nestor provides Telemakhos with hospitality. Now Zeus forbid it and the other gods as well, /no blankets in this house, no pile of soft rugs, / no sleeping soft for host and guest! (45) When Nestor says this, Telemakhos is given hospitality by Menelaos again even though he does not ask him who he is until he has been bathed, fed and warmed up. These instances illustrate how Telemakhos was given hospitality without being asked after a goddess had to intervene to make it happen.
The suitors are inconsiderate to everyone and abuse the hospitality they have been offered. First, after offering the suitors lodging, all of the suitors are extremely discourteous to Penelope and Telemakhos. Athena is disturbed by how much Telemakhos needed Odysseus when he tells her about the suitors’ bad behavior at the start of the poem; meanwhile, island rulers / are here courting my mother; and they use our home as if it were a treasure trove. Meanwhile, they eat their way through everything we have, then demolish me when they will (9).
“they will cut your head off” means that Telemakhos, the boy, is terrified into believing that if he tries to prevent the suitors in any manner whatsoever and is subsequently destroyed. It also indicates how the suitors are treating these wonderful hosts who have provided them with hospitality. Antinoos (leader of the suitors) isn’t friendly to Odysseus, who is disguised as a beggar in his own home: God! What foul wind blew this calamity in? Get over it/ stand in it!
Why should we care? Why worry about someone else’s food when he has more than enough? (325). When Antinoos says this, it’s clear he was not brought up with a strong father to show him right from wrong and has always had everything handed to him by his weak dad. He doesn’t give a damn who or what he destroys, or how the gods decide his fate or what they think of him. Finally, in terms of being a decent suitor, an example of a courteous suitor is simply a nameless suitor. When Antinoos has had enough of mocking Odysseus, this seeker comments, A terrible show, hitting this starving tramp -/ It’s not good business if he’s a god.
You know they disguise themselves as strangers when they come to towns and villages in order to keep an eye on people’s behaviors, both good and bad (327). We learn that all suitors are not evil like Antinoos. However, this nameless suitor is still being discourteous to Odysseus’ home and family, therefore he must be disposed of along with the rest of the suitors. We see how boorish the suitors were toward Odysseus due to their inhospitality and mistreatment of Penelope and Telemakhos through these quotations.
Finally, hospitality is exemplified to Odysseus in both good and terrible forms. Polypemus, for example, represents total lawlessness–he does not appear to be controlled by human, moral, cultural, or divine laws. He openly derides the gods, stating that he will not act out of fear of Zeus (line 272). He refuses to follow cultural customs of hospitality; instead, he ravenously consumes six of Odysseus’ men before being stopped by Odysseus. Kirke offers an excellent illustration of excellent hospitality.
She then provides him with a banquet, after which, having bested her and freed his men, she serves him meat and wine. She asks Odysseus to remain with her and share her food and wine, restore the brave hearts left in your ribs when you sailed from rocky Ithaka (p 179). Kirke shows hospitality in this instance because she is infatuated with Odysseus.She is, nevertheless, afraid of Zeuss’ wrath owing to her rank as a goddess, except for when she may not do so due to Zeuss’, and therefore does not show excellent hospitality unless ordered by Zeus.
Last but not least, Eumaios demonstrates excellent hospitality, even though he is poor and has little to offer to Odysseus. When the watch dogs almost attacked Odysseus, Eumaios greeted him by saying, rudeness to a stranger is not decent; all wanderers and beggars are sent by Zeus. What we can give is modest yet well-intended; all we dare (249). This quote from Eumaios shows that he is a kind person who will do everything in his power to please anybody, including Odysseus.
Eumaios also understands what it’s like to beg because he was once a child who was stranded on Ithaca and Odysseys family took him in as one of their own children. Eumaios would still be a beggar if it weren’t for the kindness shown to other people, therefore he extends hospitality to others. Through several characters, Odysseus was portrayed both good and horrible hospitality in various ways.
It is apparent that the hospitality rules in The Odyssey’s universe are set at a very high bar, and that it is expected that a man welcome guests at his home. It’s worth noting that Paris, as a guest of Menelaos, stole Menelaos’ wife Helen and fled back to Troy after taking advantage of him. Always be generous because you never know who you’re dealing with.
Hospitality has changed dramatically since Ancient Greece. Today, being friendly and courteous to a visitor is regarded as excellent hospitality. It was necessary for people of Ancient Greece to offer hospitality, or face the wrath of Zeus. The law of Zeus stipulates that if someone comes to your house as a stranger, the host must be willing to feed, entertain, and maybe give them a bath and other items they need without question until those needs have been met.
The guest would not be a burden in any way. The majority of people in The Odyssey follow the rules of hospitality, but there are exceptions. Xenia is an important Greek concept that demonstrates how seriously the Greeks cherished god’s laws. When Telemachos encounters the Pylonians during a crucial Poseidon ritual, he shows complete xenia. Telemachos meets the Pylonians while they’re performing a sacred ceremony to Poseidon. They continue to honor Zeus’ law of xenia, even though they are engaged in another god’s ritual.
When Telemachos reaches Pylos, the townsfolk rush to his presence and accept him without question. They do not inquire about his name or origin until they have fed and entertained him, which is consistent with hospitality norms. They maintain their celebration of Poseidon. The inhabitants of Pylos are courteous to their visitors and treat them well from the start.
They wait until Telemachos has eaten before they inquire as to his name and origin. They never provide Telemachos with a reason to be apprehensive or distressed during his stay. The people of Pylos are excellent xenia role models in The Odyssey because they exemplify hospitality without reservations.
The Cyclops, Polyphemos, demonstrates how xenia might not be given at all by the way he treats Odysseus and his men. The suitors’ disregard for hospitality norms and their willing participation in them are illustrated by the fact that they found out about Penelope’s intentions through trickery. Homer frequently depicts instances of excellent hospitality throughout the Odyssey, such as those from Pylos.
Homer also depicts instances of poor hospitality, such as how the suitors act as visitors and Polyphemos his guests. The notion that xenia is essential to the Greeks is always apparent, whether it’s a positive or a negative example of hospitality. For fear of being struck by Zeus’ lightning bolt, all of the Greeks follow the intricate standards of hospitality to the letter.
In Homer’s epic poem “The Odyssey,” which recounts the tale of Odysseus’ journey back to Ithaca after successfully aiding the Greeks in conquering Troy, we are treated to an account of the story. While there are various mythical and supernatural elements in the form of gods, goddesses, nymphs, witches, and magic throughout the narrative; one of its most intriguing and uncommon features was Odysseus’ remarkable degree of generosity exhibited throughout parts of it (Grabek, 96). In this essay, I’ll look at instances of hospitality in “The Odyssey.” It can be argued that had Odysseus not been so prone to the generosity of strangers, he would have arrived home a long time ago rather than being delayed for so long.
The idea of Greek hospitality (xenia) towards guests is firmly entrenched in the notion that all visitors are under the protection of the gods, according to an examination of other types of ancient Greek literature. According to reports, Zeus was considered the guest benefactor who protected strangers’ households in foreign countries and turning away a visitor was believed to be equivalent to offending Zeus himself (Grabek, 96).
Do we believe that guests are tests sent by the gods themselves, and that various visitors requesting refuge inside homes might be Gods in disguise? The story of Baucis and Philemon is one example. Zeus grew weary of eating ambrosia on Olympus and descended to the Phrygian countryside with Hermes to examine the people’s generosity. They knocked on hundreds of doors disguised as poor travelers, but they were always denied entrance.
It was only after meeting the ramshackle cottage of Baucis and Philemon that they were shown the greatest degree of respect by the impoverished pair. The conclusion of the narrative saw all of the Phrygian countryside deluged with people who had been turned away, with Baucis and Philemon becoming cult heroes for their charity by being made priests to a new temple on top of a hill that remained unscathed.
The Greek gods, in particular Zeus and Athena, were the protectors of strangers. Ancient Greek society at the time had a rather kind attitude towards visitors, frequently showing them the greatest hospitality possible (Grabek, 96). It should be pointed out, though, that this generosity is not an inherent cultural inclination to share. Rather than that, it may be seen as a consequence of dread for the anger of the gods (Melisa et al., 1).
Another point to consider is the ancient Greek concept of the “guest-host relationship,” which influences the topic of hospitality in “The Odyssey.” This element plays a role in the plot of “The Odyssey.” The idea of a guest-host connection is firmly entrenched in the process by which hospitality is offered and accepted. It was shown that improper care for guests had the potential to result in severe punishment. On the other hand, it was demonstrated that great generosity resulted in an enormous number of blessings (Melisa et al., 1).
In this paper, I’ll examine how hospitality may be utilized in “The Odyssey.” Three distinct comparisons will be examined: Calypso’s imprisonment of Odysseus vs. Circe’s offer of hospitality and love; Alcinous/Phaeacians being helpful by attempting to get Odysseus home vs. Poseidon’s shipwreck; and Penelope’s hospital welcome of Odysseus disguised as a beggar vs. the suitor’s terrible treatment/joking about him.
These three examples demonstrate the importance of guest-host interactions and what happens when they’re mishandled. The concept of hospitality, which allowed Odysseus to overcome numerous challenges and return home, may be seen as a product of improper/appropriate hospitality in both situations. While it was hospitality that allowed Odysseus to finally conquer all obstacles and return home, the notion of hospitality is firmly embedded within the guest-host connection, accounting for many of his adventures and delaying him considerably.
Calypso Imprisonment of Odysseus vs. Circe’s Hospitality
There are two different situations addressed in the first parallels, Odysseus’ captivity and his welcome by Circe. After Odysseus’ ship was wrecked during the wrath of Poseidon, Calypso discovered him on the beach. He subsequently spent seven years in her company owing to her falling violently obsessed with him and attempting to persuade him to be her spouse. Calypso is acting as a great host under the guest-host paradigm.
Despite the fact that she is the daughter of Poseidon, Calypso chose to assist Odysseus when he washed up on her island’s shore. Calypso meets the first aspect of the guest-host relationship in that she receives a visitor who has come to her home in need. Odysseus is criticized in several classics for his relationship with Calypso, in which he did not attempt to flee as soon as he recovered. The fact that Odysseus was completing the second part of the guest-host connection, which entails properly and respectfully receiving the gift of hospitality, remains true.
For the ancient Greeks, the notion of hospitality went beyond simply how it was given; rather, it involved how guests were received as well as the natural results of such a reception. In Thrinacia, for example, several crew members harmed Odysseus and his men’s guest-host relationship by hunting Apollo’s cattle (Greek life, 1).
The crew perished, and Odysseus alone survived the calamity. As a result of this, on the part of the host, failure to be open and friendly to visitors results in Zeus’ wrath being directed toward him. On the other hand, guests that do not follow proper behavior norms behind the guest-host relationship will also suffer some type of bad luck.
The effects of receiving hospitality are one of the driving forces behind Odysseus’ necessity to stay with Calypso for seven years. He didn’t want to destroy the guest-host bond by leaving immediately, especially since she had restored his life. In other words, it’s clear that for the Greeks, there is a certain code of conduct to follow when it comes to hospitality or else there would be dire consequences (Greek life, 1). Homer drives this point home even further in the case of Odysseus and Circe in Book 10 of the Odyssey.
Hermes informs Odysseus of Circe’s actions, advising him to take the drug moly to prevent her magic from harming his men. As a result, Odysseus drew his sword on Circe and threatened to murder her. Hermes’ assistance was due to Circe’s violation of the guest-host code of conduct, which even the gods must follow.
For example, when Odysseus and his crew arrived in the land of the Cyclops, they were without firewood or food. The gods warned Circe to be more friendly with guests since she was so strong, but she was not exempt from this rule and thus received a punishment from the gods to teach her to be more welcoming toward visitors. What this implies is that any violation of hospitality principles always has repercussions, regardless of who you are. This idea will become clearer later on in the essay when I expand on the various comparisons in it.
How Is Hospitality Shown in “The Odyssey”? Odysseus Home vs. Poseidon’s Shipwreck
Unlike the parallel before it, where Odysseus had to spend significant amounts of time with both Circe and Calypso, Odysseus was able to return home through the Phaeacians’ assistance. Poseidon’s destruction of the raft of Odysseus and his subsequent shipwreck on the island of Phaecians provides the foundation for this story.
The Odyssey is unique in that we follow Odysseus and his crew as they try to return home after the lengthy journey. During their long trek, Odysseus and his men seek refuge from a storm; during this time, Nausicaa, the daughter of Alcinous, encounters them and encourages them to ask for hospitality at her father’s home. Once again, we see the guest-host connection in operation as Odysseus is openly welcomed by Alcinous and treated very well. Similar to Calypso and Circe, Odysseus once again plays the part of a visitor who gladly accepts Alcinous’ hospitality.
Unlike the ones involving Circe and Calypso, Odysseus’ stay with the Phaeacians has a happy conclusion in that he is able to depart immediately for Ithaca owing to their help. The reason for this is connected to the concept of a guest-host relationship and the effect of receiving hospitality. In the case of Circe and Calypso, both women did not want Odysseus to leave since they were in love with him. There is also the issue of Odysseus having to accommodate the host’s demands. As a result, his stay in both instances is prolonged beyond what he had anticipated due to his unwillingness to be an ungracious guest as a consequence of the visitor-host system.
The Odyssey is a work of fiction, but it nevertheless has some historical value. It does an accurate enough depiction of the concept utilized in ancient Greek society (Shaw & Bloom, 41). As a result, it’s also one of the instances of hospitality in “The Odyssey.” It’s possible that Homer chose to depict Odysseus’ story in this manner because he wished to present his ideas regarding the system itself, which places an unfair burden on both the host and the guest (Shaw & Bloom, 41).
In the case of the Phaeacians, specifically Alcinous, after hearing Odysseus’ tale of travels, it was their desire to assist him in reaching Ithaca. As a result, Odysseus once again obeying the guest-host concept goes along with the wishes of the Phaeacians to assist him in returning home. In the case of Odysseus, it was the Phaeacians’ wish to assist him in returning home that motivated his release. It’s reasonable to believe that if the king had wanted Odysseus to stay rather than assisting him in returning home, he would have spent additional time away from home.
Poseidon’s enmity towards Odysseus, as depicted in the poem Odyssey, is an example of this other side. When Odysseus was heading for the Phaeacians, Poseidon fought against him on his journey through the seas. It must be noted that while God of the Sea, all of Odysseus’ travels took place within Poseidon’s domain.
Odysseus blinded the Cyclops Polyphemus, who was also a son of Poseidon, earning him the enmity of Poseidon. As a result of this transgression, Odysseus was wrecked by Poseidon’s fury. It is emphasized even more clearly here that transgressions against the guest-host relationship can and will lead to an ignominious conclusion. My emphasis on this idea stems from the parallelism between Odysseus and the ill-tempered guests at his house.
Examples of Bad Hospitality in “The Odyssey”
We see Odysseus returning to Ithaca at the end of The Odyssey. Instead of immediately presenting himself to his wife, Athena disguises him as a beggar so that he may examine what has happened to his home while he was gone. When he walked into the home looking for food and shelter, he was met by the various suitors who were there abusing and mocking him, treating him in a terrible manner.
If we consider the above, we might conclude that Odysseus is the head of the household in which the visitors are staying. Even though they are unaware of it, treating him in such a manner goes against accepted protocol between guests and hosts. Another consideration is that Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, has frequently requested the various suitors to leave her home in several parts of The Odyssey. Despite her requests, most stayed despite their rights and even abused them while staying at her home. This is another example of a guest-host violation, in which the visitors do not respect the host’s instructions. It is clear that one of the reasons why Odysseus took so long to get to Ithaca was because he tried hard to keep to his promise (Melisa et al., 1).
Violations of the guest-host relationship frequently lead to a shameful death. All of the suitors at the house were murdered in this instance. There is, however, no retribution from the gods for Odysseus’ actions. In some versions of the tale, Athena herself comes to Odysseus’s rescue by intervening on behalf of the parents of his various suitors. This is why the slayers were able to kill them because the suitors themselves disregarded the guest-host relationship by not showing respect for the host and failing to fulfill his/her demands, thus giving legitimacy to their killing.
Penelope, in the other half of the parallelism, showed Odysseus great kindness and compassion after following the standards of the guest-host relationship. It was previously stated that because the Greeks regarded guests to be a type of test from the Gods, they never knew if someone they were treating was a God in disguise (Steward & Bloom, 187). The disguised person, in this case, was not a God but Odysseus, but it served the same purpose as Baucis and Philemon’s tale (Steward & Bloom, 187). Penelope was able to obtain the prize of her husband living and well.