Xenia in the Odyssey Essay

760 Words May 14th, 2009 4 Pages
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 …show more content…
However, the suitors did the worst thing a guest could do and, although in vain, plotted to kill Telemakhos as they feared that he would return from his trip to Pylos and Sparta with news of Odysseus. This is perhaps the biggest violation of Xenia that a guest can possibly commit and is punishable by death. In addition to overstaying their welcome and basically taking over the palace as their own, they also treated other guests of the palace poorly despite being guests themselves. In Book XX, Odysseus returned to his palace disguised as a stranger when the suitors were enjoying one of their banquets. Odysseus went around collecting scraps from the suitors so that he would learn to distinguish the good from the bad among them. However, Odysseus' inspection was not appreciated by Antinoos, and instead of giving him food as the others had done, he threw a stool at Odysseus, and struck him on the back (Greek Mythology Link). Without knowing it, the suitors, through Antinoos’ actions, had attacked their host which was another crime punishable by death.

Certainly, the suitors were aware of the consequences of their actions. Otherwise, when Antinoos threw the stool at Odysseus, the others wouldn’t worry that Zeus could be in the guise of the beggar. The suitors have been going against the values of Xenia for so long that they knew it was a matter of time before they’re punished for their actions; it wasn’t merely