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 (Wikipedia). 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 (Wikipedia). In The Odyssey, Xenia is a theme which is shown repeatedly throughout the book: Nestor and Menelaos take in Telemakhos warmly as a guest and Eumaios plays an excellent host to Odysseus, while Odysseus is disguised as a wandering beggar. It is no accident that Xenia is such an important theme in The Odyssey, as it helps Homer present which characters he wanted to be “good.” Of course, the same can be said about the characters Homer wanted to be “bad” and there is no better example of this than the 108 young men collectively known as the suitors.
The suitors were men from Ithaca who during Odysseus’ absence, began to court his wife, Penelope. However, they did not wait for Penelope’s answer in their own homes but instead, stayed at the palace as guests. Forcing Penelope to decide which one of them she was to marry, the suitors refused to leave the palace and spent their time slaughtering the sheep and fatted cattle belonging to the estate in order to provide their great parties with food (Greek Mythology Link). There are three basic rules of Xenia: The respect from host to guest, the respect from guest to host, and the parting gift from host to guest. It is also important to know that the guest must be courteous to his host and not be a burden (Wikipedia).The suitors, who were already ill-portrayed by Homer with just some of their names (the lead suitor was named Antinoos, which literally means “No Mind”), were made even more detestable through their...
Cited: 1.Homer (Translated by Fitzgerald, Robert). The Odyssey. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998.
2.Wikipedia. “Xenia (Greek).” 4 Feb. 2008. 20 Feb. 2008
3.Greek Mythology Link. “Suitors of Penelope.”
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