Necessity or Murder? Justification of Odysseus’ Slaughter of the Suitors in Book 22

Necessity or Murder? Justification of Odysseus’ Slaughter
of the Suitors in Book 22

    Since Odysseus left for Troy, his kingdom has fallen into turmoil.   A hundred and eight of the most vile, arrogant, and self-absorbed men have been occupying his palace for the past three years of his absence, in hope of marrying his wife, Penelope.   These suitors have behaved like pigs during this time, consuming all Odysseus’ food and wine, and luxuriating in his wealth, which was meant for his son and heir, Telemachus.   As a consequence, in a later book of the poem, Odysseus returns to Ithaca and slays the suitors.   Although some readers may argue otherwise, when one takes into account all aspects of the plot, Odysseus’ slaughter of the suitors appears to be entirely permissible.
    According to Greek Mythology, the gods of Olympus do not take kindly to crimes of hubris. Thus, because of the suitors’ arrogance, they most certainly must be penalized.   Athena herself expresses distaste for them when she tells Telemachus, “How obscenely they lounge and swagger here, look, / gorging in your house.   Why, any man of sense who chanced among them   would be outraged, / seeing such behaviour” (1.264-67).   One thing the suitors have done that the Greeks did not admire was the betrayal of xenia, the all important Greek concept of hospitality; they have overstayed their welcome, and drained the house of its riches. The importance of xenia is shown again when Odysseus returns and says to the suitors, “you bled my house to death, / ravished my serving-women—wooed my wife / behind my back while I was still alive” (22.37-39). The suitors have essentially broken all the rules of xenia; they indulged in all Odysseus’ wealth, they seduced his servants, and they even tried to court his wife, which is a serious crime. The last time that happened, the Trojan War started when Helen stole away with Paris. Thus, the suitors’ crimes of hubris and betrayal of xenia brought about their demise....