Feast Symbolism in the Odyssey

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Symbolism in Book III and IV Odyssey

One of the noticeable symbols in these two books is the presence of food gatherings and feasts. Organized celebrations are a part of social culture during ancient times. The motives of celebrations are usually various, weddings, triumph and returns from wars.

Gertrude Jobes (Dictionary of Mythology, Folklore and Symbolism) describes feast as "anything affording enjoyment to the body or spirit", special festivities were organized for the poor people, sometimes the guests were taken care of in a peculiar way, washed, perfumed, amused by story-telling. A general definition of a feast is "a banquet of a more or less public nature, an elaborate and abundant repast, especially one commemorating some event or person" (1961). Banquets often show the wealth of the family by the catering and the amount of food offered. Offering luxurious food, and entertainment by poets and musicians ensures good reputation among the province.

Throwing a feast for a guest is a common role of hospitality, and a method to please the guests. However in the Odyssey hunger and the consumption of luxury food connotes a negative association. These represent lack of discipline or submission to temptation. Hungry men that travel with Odysseus are constantly tested their resistance of falling into the temptation, and the willing of escape.

In Book III, the suitors, are continuously eating. These banquets help the reader emphasis on the human relationships, union of people, sharing of food "passing the gold cup with wine" and themes such as love, hate, religion, war, disloyalty, etc.
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