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Xenia Essay

2472 words - 10 pages

All throughout The Odyssey there are scenes of good and bad xenia, or hospitality. It can be seen that hospitality is extremely important in the Greek culture, both how someone treats their guests and how the guests treat the host. A closer look chronologically into the good, then bad examples will show how one acts affects the actions that are brought upon them when they either follow or disobey Zeus' Law.
Right at the beginning of The Odyssey, the reader is shown the hospitality that Telemachus has. Athena arrives, disguised, and he invites her into his home by saying: "'Greetings, stranger! / Here in our house you'll find a royal welcome. / Have supper first, then tell us what you need'" (1.144-46). His address to Athena shows right away that he is an extremely hospitable character. Despite his house being overridden by the suitors, he is still welcoming of this stranger. When she is about to leave, he offers that she stay longer and wants to treat her with honor (1.352-60). Telemachus has no idea who Athena is, yet he still shows extreme generosity towards her. Telemachus is a perfect role model for xenia. Even though the suitors have been pushing him around for years, he still finds it in his heart to provide strangers a lovely experience when they visit him. It seems as though he has seen how terrible it is to be treated with bad xenia and he in turn wants to treat his guests the way that he hopes to be treated.
Other acts of hospitality are seen throughout The Odyssey. Telemachus has left on a journey to find out about his father and he comes across Nestor. Nestor shows multiple signs of good hospitality. When Telemachus first meets him, he gives everyone a feast before even asking who they are (3.76-79). Once Telemachus brings up his reason for being there, Nestor is more than willing to tell him everything he knows about Odysseus, Telemachus's father. When Telemachus and his crew are ready to leave, Nestor sends them off to their next destination with horses. There is the same sort of story with Menelaus, the red-haired king. He provides Telemachus and his men with a feast before asking any questions saying: "'Help yourselves to food, and welcome! Once you've dined / we'll ask who you are'" (4.68-69). Menelaus and his wife Helen make sure that Telemachus is comfortable during his stay. Helen gets the maids to make beds that are full of warmth (4.333-36). After staying for a while, Telemachus decides it is time to leave, and he is sent home with gifts of plenty.
After this, Homer switches from Telemachus's journey to Odysseus's. The first person he is with is Calypso. Arguably, she is a good host to her guest, even if he does not want to be there: "And I welcomed him warmly, cherished him, even vowed / to make the man immortal, ageless, all his days" (5.150-51). She believes that she is treating him well, giving him everything that Penelope would never be able to. She is able to get away with keeping Odysseus for seven years without...

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