April 25, 2013
“Hospitality Contained in The Iliad and The Odyssey”
Hospitality is one of the main themes in the great works of The Iliad and The Odyssey by the poet Homer. Merriam-Webster defines hospitality as “generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests : hospitable treatment or the activity of providing food, drinks, etc. for people who are the guests or customers of an organization — often used before another noun” (“Hospitality”). In basic terms, the love for strangers. Homer described the “guest-friend relationship, known as xenia” (The Value of Hospitality). Life in ancient times was more nomadic and there was empathy to welcome those who have possibly traveled a great distance. People were more welcoming to people in their homes, offering food, and protection. “The concept of hospitality as being based on meeting the needs that guests have at the time, rather than the type of people that they are, has been established” (O’Gorman, 148). It was a lifestyle that has since been lost in modern society. In Ancient Greece, fear of their God’s was the main reason for their hospitality. It was expected that they perform good deeds to maintain their preferred God of choice’s favor. Not being hospitable could result in falling out of favor with the Gods and unlike our God; they believed their gods to be vengeful. As a Christian, I fear judgment day. Pagans think of something similar, karma or the law of return. Our Bible says “For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward” (Mark 9:41). However, it does not take the kindness of a Christian or the fear of a Pagan believer to be kind to a stranger; it takes integrity and dignity. These were two traits that were qualities that were expected of the Ancient Greeks.
In modern times, the hospitality to travelers is slipping away. We to foreign countries by planes mostly and upon arrival we are not greeted with hospitality right away but by cold immigration workers who carry out a dull and lifeless job. Hospitality can now be purchased however through the quality of establishment in which you choose to stay. In Ancient Greece people would open their homes up to strangers and share what little food they had, this still exist but it is rare to find. There is more of a risk in allowing strangers into your home as we hear about every crime on our local news. It has left us in a civilization that is weary to strangers and allowing others into our lives.
The Iliad really shows us how hospitality played a large role in the culture of Troy. Take for example Menelaus allowed Paris into his home to sleep, dine, and celebrate. Paris in return took his wife Helen (XIII. 626-27). This blatant disregard of hospitality was enough to wage a war upon Troy. This example should be enough to help someone understand the value that was placed on hospitality in Ancient Greece.
“That's how you'll be retreating from the Greek ships, you insolent
Trojans, always spoiling for a fight! Not that you are amateurs in other forms of abusive and shameful behavior. Look at how you abused me, you dirty dogs, when you broke the laws of hospitality and defied the wrath of loud-thundering Zeus, protector of guests, who is going to bring Ilium tumbling down before long.” (13. 620)
Not only was Paris responsible to answer to the cross Menelaus but he also had to live in fear of the repercussions of the gods, mainly Zeus who as previously stated in the quote to be the “protector of guest.” “Homer employs the will of Zeus as the motivation for the action of the poem because the tradition of epic, which recorded the afflictions wrought by Zeus on Trojan and Greek alike, mandated it” (Wilson, 153). It took ten years but just as Menelaus swore, Troy did fall. Troy fell at the welcoming of the famed, Trojan Horse. They thought it to be a gift because the horse was a beloved symbol of Troy Homer