In The Odyssey, told by Homer and translated by Robert Fagles, Greek hospitality is one of many central themes. The Greek notion of hospitality, called xeinios, is the relationship between the host and guest(s). Xeinios mainly focuses on the exchange of wealth and accommodations. This Greek belief helps the hosts display respect towards the gods, please the guests, and create a bond with other cities and families.
Xeinios originated in ancient Greece, and it happens to be one of Zeus’ many names. “Zeus of the strangers,” Odysseus tells a Cyclops in his cave, “guards all guests and suppliants” (Book 9, line 304). This practice of hospitality consisted of three basic rules : hosts will respect the guest, and vice versa; provide well, for the guest might be a deity in disguise; and protect traveling bards. Bards would receive shelter, food, clothing, and gifts in exchange for entertainment and news from other parts of the world. Hospitality was practiced all throughout Greece during The Odyssey.
Xeinios was displayed by every family in Homer’s epic poem. Odysseus’ house was inhabited by suitors, and they were treated well. There was a number of other households displaying such hospitality, including the domiciliary of Calypso and the Phaecians. The Phaecians, in particular, exhibited xeinios impeccably. Nausicaa, daughter of Alcinous, and her maids offered to bathe Odysseus, then led him to the palace for food and entertainment (Book 6). In Book 13, Odysseus arrives at Eumaeus’ shack in the guise of an old beggar. After exchanging life stories, Eumaeus leaves to sleep with his dogs, letting Odysseus rest in his shack.
Some of Homer’s characters did not display xeinios, such as Polyphemus and the suitors. Polyphemus is the Cyclops son of Poseidon, the sea god. In Book 9, Odysseus and his crew sailed from the land of the Lotus-eaters to the Cyclops’ coast. He then takes twelve men with him to search for supplies. While scouring the island, they enter the...