The Rules of Hospitality in Homer’s Poem, The Odyssey

Hospitality promotes good relations between people through love and kindness. It is a virtue that drives one to meet another person’s needs without necessarily having blood relations between them. It also seeks to strengthen social bonds among friends as well as strangers through human understanding. Hospitality enables people to welcome strangers into their homes as well as reconcile with enemies in the spirit of brotherhood.

In the Odyssey, hospitality among people that lived in ancient Greece inspired them to welcome strangers in their journeys. Homer explains how Telemakhos and Peisistratos got a warm reception at Melelaos in ancient Sparta. Hospitality was therefore manifested through long journeys and the guest-friendship associations referred to as Xenia.

Traveling during Homer’s time was much broader and tedious with primitive modes of transport that included trekking and boat riding. As such, travelers spent many days away from home in strange locations. It was also difficult in medieval times to find hotels where travelers could spend a night for accommodation, food, and security provisions. Hospitality was therefore the only means for travelers to obtain shelter and other basic human needs in a foreign land. Travelers were only expected to appreciate the generosity received from strangers by giving back gifts and presents to their hosts. It was equally not safe for strangers to travel in a foreign country. Hospitality was therefore the only means through which foreigners could receive proper treatment in order to realize their dreams.

As such, Xenia a Greek translation for friendship between two people from different regions existed as the only means a stranger could receive meals, shelter, and security in a foreign land. The Greeks also believed that they were under obligation from the gods to treat strangers with hospitality in order to be blessed. It, therefore, meant that treating a stranger harshly could lead to punishment from the same gods. High self-esteem was also attached to a person who treated another with high standards of hospitality.

Above, hospitality and immense generosity bestowed upon strangers in the Greek society was a response to the god Zeus that demanded utmost courtesy on unexpected visitors to all human beings. The strangers were believed to be messengers from the gods or otherwise the gods themselves on a mission to test people’s character.

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