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Guest-Host Relationships Within the Odyssey (Citations Included)

By extreme5489 Mar 05, 2008 921 Words
According to Webster's New World Dictionary a political relationship could be "social relationships involving authority or power," which makes guest-host relationships political because the host almost always has authority over the guest since the host is in his own town/ kingdom, while the guest is in a foreign place. The way that one may treat a guest in today's time and the way that guests were treated in Ancient Greece and The Odyssey differ greatly. In The Odyssey, Homer uses guest-host relationships as an ethical norm against which behavior is measured. When the ritual is preformed correctly by guest-hosts, good results ensue. In contrast, the violations of this ethical norm results in misfortune. This idea was taken very seriously by people of Ancient Greece and it can also be found throughout the story. A great example of a guest host relationship where both the guest and the host behave properly is the relationship between Telemachos and King Menelaos. As a guest Telemachos treats his host with respect and dignity. He addresses Menelaos as "my lord" to give reverence to his kindness and to be polite. Telemachos is very complimentary to his host by saying "Zeus must have such a place.(The Odyssey 44)" when referring to Menelaos' house. He does this to let him know that he will be a good guest and that he is a proper gentleman. Menelaos shows that he to can be a good host and gives Telemachos food and shelter even when there is a wedding going on. He says "go and take out their horses, and bring the men in to share our feast"(The Odyssey 44). This shows that Menelaos must be a good host especially to give them shelter during a wedding. Due to kindness of both men good things are bound to ensue. For Telemachos the good outcome he receives is the accurate news of his father's whereabouts. For Menelaos the good outcome is that whenever he may need help Telemachos is always there for him. Another example in which there is a good host and a good guest is the relationship between Odysseus and Eumaios, the swine herd. Despite Odysseus' appearance as a beggar, since he is in disguise, Eumaios treats him with the same respect as he would any person. He takes him into his home and tells him to "eat away" and to enjoy himself. Eumaios' reward is that his life is spared by Odysseus. H However not all guest-host relationships are ones in which the guest and the host act properly. For instance, the relationship between Odysseus and Polyphemos, the Cyclops. When Odysseus first arrives at the cave of Polyphemos it says he "walked briskly to the cave, but found him not at home...so we entered (The Odyssey 104)". This action is not a good way to be a guest because he comes in uninvited. He even goes a little further he says "we lit a fire and...helped ourselves to as many cheeses as we wanted to eat" (The Odyssey 104). This is another way he is a bad guest because he takes what he wants even without it being offered to him. Upon Polyphemos' return he to shows he can be a bad host because "he picked up a great huge stone and placed it in the doorway" which made escape almost impossible. He continues his streak of meanness by eating some of Odysseus' men. It says he "devoured them like a mountain lion, bowels and flesh and marrow- bones and left nothing" (The Odyssey 106). Odysseus get angry and devises a plan which will allow him to escape. He then takes a wooden rod and "thrust the sharp point into his eye and leaned hard on it from above and turned it round and round" (The Odyssey 107). This is the punishment Polyphemos receives for his being a bad host. However Odysseus also receives a punishment for entering into Polyphemos' house without permission and being a bad guest. His punishment is the great loss of men which he receives, his quick evacuation of the island, and the anger he brings to Poseidon; which causes him to have the suitors come to his house and wreak havoc in his kingdom. In Ancient Greece, they shared the same beliefs that are portrayed in The Odyssey: bad hosting will result in something bad happening and vice versa. The encyclopedia of Ancient Greece quotes, "The guest-host relationship was judged to be so sacred that its supervision was placed under the protection of Zeus Xenious" (715). It is also quoted in The Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece that Zeus would send other Greek Gods down to punish who ever showed signs of bad hosting, and to give out good luck to those who showed signs of good hosting (716). This was a belief shared by many Greeks of that time, but it was also just a polite thing to be good to your hosts. I In The Odyssey and in Ancient Greece, the guest-host relationship was very important to the safety and well being of the people. They believed that if one of the two, either the guest or the host, acts improperly something bad was bound to happen. This idea was practiced almost always by the people and they usually lived their lives in harmony by treating guests well; however if one of them broke these guidelines then something bad ensued.

Bibliography:
Homer, The Odyssey
The Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece

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