Homer demonstrates the importance of hospitality through Odysseus’ interactions with the Cyclops. Odysseus and his men arrive at the cave of the Cyclops and do what they have been taught is the courteous thing to do, as Odysseus recounts in Book 9:
‘…But since we’ve chanced on you, we’re at your knees
in hopes of a warm welcome, even a guest-gift,
the sort that hosts give strangers. That’s the custom.
Respect the gods, my friend. We’re suppliants—at your mercy!
Zeus of the Strangers guards all guests and suppliants:
strangers are sacred—Zeus will avenge their rights!’
‘Stranger,’ he grumbled back from his brutal heart,
‘you must be a fool, stranger, or come from nowhere,
telling me to fear the gods or avoid their wrath!
We Cyclops never blink at Zeus and Zeus’s shield
of storm and thunder, or any other blessed god—
we’ve got more force by far.
I’d never spare you in fear of Zeus’s hatred,
you or your comrades here, unless I had the urge. (9. 300-313)
Odysseus and his men did the right thing, they brought the Cyclops a gift of wine, and they made themselves comfortable in his home. Since the Cyclops made it clear that he had no regard for the gods, he did not follow standard hospitality code, which would have been to give them a gift and make them feel welcome in case he happened to be in the presence of the divine. Odysseus tells the Cyclops that Zeus values and protects strangers, and will avenge their rights. The Cyclops makes himself clear that he could not care less what the gods might do to him, for he believes himself much more powerful. Because the Cyclops is relentless, Odysseus and his men are forced to plot a way out, which eventually lands the Cyclops blind. Another example of the importance of hospitality code is in Book XXII when the suitors take over Odysseus’ home and extend their welcome, eating all of his food, drinking his wine, sleeping with his maids, and not respecting the authority of his son...
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