Xenia

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Xenia – The Odyssey

The concept of guest hospitality is extremely important in ancient Greece. Hospitality, or Xenia, is so essential in Greek society that Zeus, in addition to being the king of the Gods, is also the God of travelers. This created an obligation for the host to be hospitable to their guests, and conversely, the guests had their own responsibilities as well. If either the host or the guest was to break any rule set by Xenia, there would be severe penalties dealt by Zeus and also by society. Xenia is an important theme in Homer's The Odyssey. Every household in the epic is seen alongside xenia. Odysseus's house is inhabited by suitors with demands beyond the bounds of xenia. Menelaus and Nestor's houses are seen when Telemachus visits. There are many other households observed in the epic, including those of Circe, Calypso, and the Phaeacians. The Phaeacians, and in particular Nausicaa, were famed for their immaculate application of xenia, as the princess and her maids offered to bathe Odysseus and then led him to the palace to be fed and entertained. It should be noted, however, that because Odysseus was indirectly responsible for Poseidon's sinking one of their ships, the Phaeacians resolved to be less trusting of subsequent travelers. However, Polyphemus showed lack of xenia despite Odysseus reminding him of it and refused to honor the traveler's requests, instead eating some of Odysseus' men. The suitor Ctesippus mocks xenia by hurling a hoof at the disguised Odysseus as a 'gift'. When he is speared by Philoetius, the cowherd claims this avenges his disrespect. Book 3 Lines 70-80 also show xenia shown to Odysseus' son, Telemachus. Book 1 has Telemachus showing xenia to the disguised Athena. Eumaeus the Swineherd shows xenia to the disguised Odysseus, claiming guests come under the protection of Zeus. When the leading suitor Antinous throws a stool at the disguised Odysseus and strikes his right shoulder as he asks for food, even the other...
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