Greek Hospitality In The Odyssey Essay

979 words - 4 pages

When it comes to hospitality, Greeks stand atop the list of all cultures for their generosity and politeness towards strangers. “Philoxenia” is the Greek word for “the love of strangers”. Philoxenia is demonstrated in several different cases in Homer’s The Odyssey. According to Greek customs, hospitality is respected by the immortal gods. If the Greek code of hospitality is not performed correctly, or not performed at all, the consequences may be very severe, gods may unleash their wrath to whoever does not follow this tradition of thoughtfulness. Homer suggests both positive and negative commentary on his own world through the examples of hospitalities that provide The Odyssey.
A positive host is one who welcomes their guests with open arms. Generous Greek hosts treat their guests with the highest respect. A positive host does not ask a guest of their identity, until after they dine. Greek hosts offer their guests a wide variety of meats and wines. If a host enjoys the company of his guests, he will offer gifts to them. The type of gift offered to the guest would depend on the wealth and generosity of the host. If the guest is a weary traveler and a long way from home, a host may invite the guest to stay for the night at his home. An example of excellent Greek hospitality as read in The Odyssey would be shown in the character Menelaus, towards his unknown guests, Telemachus and Peisistratus. Menelaus is quoted in The Odyssey as follows: “Welcome. Do begin your meal. After you’ve dined we shall inquire who you may be. (IV pg. 42)” Other examples of good hospitality would include King Alcinous and Queen Arete, of the Phaecians, towards Odysseus, and the king of Pylos, Nestor, towards Telemachus. Therefore, this form of hospitality from The Odyssey shows that an excellent Greek host is kind and generous to his guests, unlike those of an inferior host.
There is nothing worse than having a host with negative hospitality. Negative hosts are unkind to their guests, or may refuse to host a stranger altogether. In The Odyssey, the following is an account in which Odysseus and his men are not shown positive hospitality. This was the encounter of the Cyclops, Polyphemus. After Odysseus asks for positive hospitality, and reminds Polyphemus that guests are sacred to Zeus, Polyphemus replies: “Stranger, you must be a fool, or must have come from very far afield, to order me to fear or reverence the gods. We Cyclopes care nothing for Zeus with his aegis, nor for the rest of the blessed gods, since we are much stronger than they are. I would never spare you or your men for of incurring Zeus’ enmity, unless I felt like it. (IX pg. 117)” Polyphemus intended to kill Odysseus and his men. Luckily for Odysseus and most of his crew, they managed to escape the imprisonment of the Cyclops. Another example of negative hospitality would be...

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