The Significance of Xenia in Homer’s The Odyssey

Topics: Odyssey, Odysseus, Trojan War Pages: 3 (1252 words) Published: September 20, 2010
Kaitlyn Lambert
MR. Bovaird
Honors English 9
23 May 2010
The Significance of Xenia in Homer’s Odyssey
The society of Ancient Greece was very much centered around the gods, and a healthy fear of the consequences of not obeying their laws. The next most important staples of the society were the concepts of braver, pride, and hospitality, or Xenia. The significance of these values is shown quite clearly in The Odyssey of Homer. In the first five books of the epic, Telemachos is shown great hospitality by the kings, Nestor, and Menelaos. As Homer writes in description of Nestor’s reception of Telemachos and Athena, “These men, when they sighted the strangers, all came down together and gave them greeting with their hands and offered them places (Homer.3.34-35)”. The significance in this is that Nestor took a break from his celebration in order to greet two people, who he had not an inkling of the identities of. First, he greeted them, and second, without a thought for his convenience, offered them a place at his table. After introductions have been made, and Telemachos has asked for word of his father, Nestor yet again demonstrates his following of Zeus’s law with the kind reply of “So, my child, I will relate to you the whole true story.” Regardless of the feeling associated with the tale of Nestor’s experience in the Trojan war, he does not refuse to tell Telemachos the tale. This shows the deference that is demanded to be in favor of a guest, in accordance to the law of Xenia. Upon arrival at the home of Menelaos, having been seen by one of Menelaos’s men, the man makes a query as to whether they should turn the travelers away, or welcome them to join the wedding celebrations that are in progress at the time. Menelaos’s reply to this is the statement, “Then deeply vexed, fair-haired Menelaos answered him: ‘Eteoneus, son of Boethoos, you were never a fool before, but now you are babbling nonsense, as a child would do. Surely we two have eaten much hospitality...

Cited: Homer. The Odyssey translated by Richard Lattimore. New York: HarperCollins books, 2007.
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