Xenia in the Odyssey

Xenia in the Odyssey
      In Homer’s epic poem “The Odyssey,” xenia or hospitality is an important theme to the Greek culture; it is shown by inviting any stranger, or beggar that arrives into their home and offering them food, a bath, and a place to sleep.   In the Odyssey, there are several examples of good xenia provided by Telemachus, Nestor, Menelaus and the Phaeacians (Davis).   The Cyclops, Circe, Calypso and the suitors do not obey the xenia rules (Davis).
    In ancient Greece, Zeus the god of xenia, “guards all guests and suppliants,” and anyone who doesn’t obey will be punished.   Many believe that the gods wander, “disguised in every way as they roam and haunt our cities, watching over us--!”   “All our foul play, all our fair play too,” you can never be too careful (17.536-538).   As a host you are to welcome any stranger in and offer them plenty of food, drink, a bath, clean clothes, a bed to sleep and guest gifts when they depart.   As a guest you are to be respectful to your host and their home.   It is believed if you practice good xenia, you will be rewarded by the gods, but if you don’t there will be consequences to pay.
    In Book One, we see Telemachus being a good host to both the suitors and to Athena who is disguised as a man.   Telemachus is in deep thought when he notices his guest standing at the door and said, “Greetings, stranger! Here in our house you’ll find a royal welcome. Have supper first, then tell us what you need” (1.144-146).   He took his guest by the hand and “escorted her to a high, elaborate chair of honor,” while servants brought “bread to serve them, appetizers aplenty too” (1.152-165).   Telemachus does not know that he is in the presence of a god, but he does the right thing by offering food, wine and a place to “bathe and rest” (1.356).
      In Book Three, Telemachus arrives in Pylos with Athena at his side to talk with King Nestor about his father Odysseus.   Immediately upon their arrival they were greeted by all,...
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