What there is evidence for is a norm of hospitality across many cultures. In particular, hospitality is perhaps the foremost moral theme of The Odyssey, one of the two great epics of ancient Greece. Having formed my open borders views, and even written a book about it, long before I studied the Old Testament teachings on the treatment of the foreigner, I was amazed at the extent to which the Bible confirmed my views, if indeed it does not go even farther than I had dared to go in insisting that strangers be welcomed and well-treated.
The reader learns about the characters through the themes. The more complicated a character is, the more he or she engages these major themes. Therefore, the most complicated character, Odysseus, appropriately embodies each of the themes to one degree or another.
Thinking of hospitality as a major theme in a literary work may seem odd to modern readers. Fagles and Knox p.
Often, however, strangers are but wayfarers, probably in need of at least some kind of help. Similarly, the residents themselves — or their friends or kin — may, at some time, be wayfarers. Civilized people, therefore, make an investment in hospitality to demonstrate their quality as human beings and in hopes that their own people will be treated well when they travel.
It was through visitors that the Homeric Greeks learned about and kept abreast of what was happening in the world beyond their local areas. Hospitality, or the lack of it, affects Odysseus throughout the epic, and the reader can judge civility by the degree of hospitality offered.
Telemachus and Penelope lack the strength to evict them, nor can they hope for much help from the community because the suitors represent some of the strongest families in the area. In his wanderings, Odysseus receives impressive help from the Phaeacians and, initially, from Aeolus.
Circe is of great assistance after Odysseus conquers her, and the Lotus-eaters might be a little too helpful. On the other hand, the Sirens are sweet-sounding hosts of death, and Cyclops Polyphemus makes no pretense toward hospitality. In fact, Polyphemus scoffs at the concept and the gods that support it.
Zeus himself, king of the gods, is known as the greatest advocate of hospitality and the suppliants who request it; yet even he allows the sea god Poseidon to punish the Phaeacians for their generous tradition of returning wayfarers to their homelands.
Another example is Telemachus, who stands by his father against the suitors. Eumaeus, the swineherd, and Philoetius, the cowherd, are exemplary in their loyalty to their master and his possessions. Also an excellent if humble host, Eumaeus makes his king proud as he speaks respectfully of the royal family and abhors the invasion of the suitors.
In contrast are goatherd Melanthius and maidservant Melantho. Melanthius has become friendly with the suitors and insults Odysseus while the king is still in disguise. The loyal servants are rewarded; those who betray their master are dealt with more harshly. This issue, however, can be complicated because many of the people from whom Odysseus expects loyalty are actually his property.
Even his wife, Penelope, literally belongs to her husband. As abhorrent as that may seem to a modern reader, possession is part of the justification for a double standard when it comes to sexual fidelity.
Penelope is expected to be absolutely faithful to her husband.
Odysseus, on the other hand, is not bound by the same expectation of fidelity. Penelope and Odysseus especially embody the theme of perseverance.In Ancient Greece, hospitality meant a lot more than giving your guest the most crumb-free seat on the Ikea couch.
They had a whole word for the relationship between guest and host: xenia.
Zeus was in charge of this relationship, and it was one of the ground rules of ancient society. [Telemachos] saw Athene and went straight to the forecourt, the heart within him scandalized that a guest should still be standing at the doors.
He stood beside her and took her by the right hand, and relieved her of the bronze spear, and spoke to her and addressed her in winged words: 'Welcome. Who violates hospitality laws more severely: the suitors by their greed, or Kalypso by holding Odysseus captive?
Why isn't Kalypso punished? The Phaiakians are the epitome of good hospitality in the Odyssey, yet a god punishes them. Joe Strehlow 3/8/09 4° Hospitality: A Moral or a Law? In the elaborate and profound epic poem “The Odyssey,” Homer expresses that one’s nobility is determined by one’s ability to abide by the proper etiquettes of hospitality.5/5(2).
Menelaos gives us some insight into why the rules of hospitality are in place: he treats his guests well, because hosts once treated him well.
Gee, it's nice when things work like they're supposed to. Hospitality: A Moral or a Law? In the elaborate and profound epic poem “The Odyssey,” Homer expresses that one’s nobility is determined by one’s ability to abide by the proper etiquettes of hospitality.5/5(2).