Xenia in The Odyssey
Hospitality today is nothing like it was in Ancient Greece. Today, good hospitality is being friendly and respectful to a guest. In Ancient Greece, hospitality was something people had to do, or face the wrath of Zeus. Zeus’s law of hospitality is that any stranger that comes to your home, the host must be willing to feed, entertain, and maybe offer them a bath and anything else they might be in need of without question until those things had been given, and also give them a parting gift. The guest, in turn, would not be a burden in any way. In The Odyssey, most people follow the rules of hospitality, but there are others who do not. The Greek concept of xenia shows the serious priority the Greeks place on the laws of the gods.
An example of complete xenia would be when Telemachos meets the people of Pylos. Telemachos meets the Pylonians while they are in the middle of an important ritual to Poseidon. Even though they are in the middle of a ritual to another god, they stay true to Zeus’s law of hospitality. The people of Pylos welcome Telemachos without question, and as soon as he arrives. They do not ask his name or where comes from until they have fed and entertained him, further following the rules of hospitality. They honor the law of Zeus and continue their festival to Poseidon. The people of Pylos are polite to their guests and treat them very well from the moment they greet them. They wait until Telemachos has eaten to ask him his name and where he has come from. Throughout Telemachos’s stay, they never give him a reason to be nervous or uncomfortable. The people of Pylos are the perfect role models of xenia in The Odyssey because they follow all the rules of hospitality unreservedly.
The Cyclops is an example of non-xenia because he does not treat Odysseus and his men with any hospitality. When Odysseus asks the Cyclops for hospitality, the Cyclops replies “ the Cyclops do not concern themselves over Zeus of the aegis” (Homer.IX.275). Odysseus was not following the rules for a guest receiving hospitality by demanding hospitality from the Cyclops. All people are supposed to follow the rules of hospitality, but from the Cyclops, Odysseus learns that does not apply to non-humans. Polyphemos also asks Odysseus questions about where he came from and his name. Following the rules of hospitality, you do not ask questions of your guest until you have fed, entertained, and given respect to a guest. Polyphemos should have shown proper hospitality first, before...