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The Greeks Placed Great Importance On Hospitality. How Is This Displayed Throughout Homer's The Odyssey?

1163 words - 5 pages

Hospitality was an integral part of Greek life and this is extremely apparent throughout Homer's epic The Odyssey. On countless occasions total strangers are welcomed into a host's house and given before their names are even known. The idea of guest friendship is one of the strongest themes in the epic. Three aspects relating to hospitality are displayed: those who welcome without question, such as the Phaecians, those who neglect their duty as hosts, the Cyclops and those who abuse the guest friendship that is extended to them, the Suitors. How these different groups were portrayed and the consequences of their actions provide an insight into the importance placed on hospitality by the ...view middle of the document...

This and much more was all done before the Phaecians even knew Odysseus' name. In fact it was a matter of days before he truly introduced himself. Not knowing who he was did not alter the way in which he was regarded. It was neither his title nor his fame that triggered the hospitality shown by the Phaecians, but simply the fact that he asked for it. Echeneus, an elder, states that "... it is unseemly...to let a stranger sit in the ashes at the hearth..." (Bk7, Ln159-60) Even if Odysseus had been a complete nobody, the Phaecians still would have sat him at their table. This is a concept quite foreign to the modern mindset, but was obviously the practice of the Greeks at that time.Another interesting quote from Book 7 refers to Zeus as "...patron of suppliants..." (Bk7, Ln164). This indicates the huge degree of importance the Greeks placed upon hospitality. Zeus was their chief god and for him to be seen in this light is truly amazing. It shows that the Greeks thought that when a person was inhospitable, he was contravening Zeus himself.It is this aspect of Zeus that Odysseus tries to emphasize when he first meets the Cyclops. He tells him that Zeus is "...the god of guests: guests are sacred to him, and he goes alongside them." (Bk9, Ln271-72) Not only is this another strong indication of the importance the Greeks placed on hospitality, but it should also have been sufficient to cause the Cyclops to acknowledge his duty, to realise that it was his responsibility to extend guest friendship to Odysseus and his comrades. But this was not the case. Instead the Cyclops chose to devour the men. This would have outraged the Greeks and contrasted against the Phaecians, allowing the Greeks to see that they were, "...as far above the normal level of civilisation as the Cyclopes [were] below it." (Clarke Pg 54) Not only did the Cyclops neglect his duty; he went to the other extreme and attacked them. Pitiful supplicants were meant to be helped not brutally attacked. Odysseus considers it divine justice when he is able to blind the Cyclops and escape. As he is sailing away he shouts "...your crimes were bound to catch up with...

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