Odyssey: Odyssey and Hospitality Essay

Submitted By sueric3
Words: 1405
Pages: 6

During the era of The Odyssey, hospitality played a vital role in the ethics of society. Travel was immensely tiring and many travelers needed places to stay. Therefore people were expected to provide hospitality and in turn, were often rewarded in some type of way. People were expected to treat traveling strangers with food, shelter and entertainment even if they were unaware of the possible danger. Also, people were very wary that if they failed to offer hospitality the Gods would unleash punishment upon them.
Meanwhile, guests also maintained a type of social conduct. They were supposed to be gracious towards their hosts for their hospitality and not overstay their welcome. Throughout the book, this guest-host relationship is tested and justice is served when this relationship is not carried out as it should be.
A host may act properly, yet the guest may still be discourteous. An appropriate example of this type of guest is Antinous, Penelope’s main suitor. Penelope’s realm of Ithaca is a prime example of hospitality. As hosts, Penelope and her servants provide the suitors with plenty of luxuries even when they are already grieving the loss of Odysseus. The book says that “A staid housekeeper brought on bread to serve [the suitors], appetizers aplenty too, lavish with her bounty. A carver lifted platters of meat toward them, meats of every sort, and set beside them golden cups […]” (82). Clearly, Penelope and her servants are demonstrating standard social conduct.
Yet, Antinous does not respect Telemachus, Penelope, or any of the resources that are given to them. When speaking to Telemachus, Athena describes the suitors: “Look at them over there. Not a care in the world, just lyres and tunes! It’s easy for them, all right, they feed on another’s goods and go scot-free−a man whose white bones lie strewn in the rain somewhere” (82). Athena, who represents the gods, conveys a tone of disgust towards the suitors who are taking advantage of Odysseus’ possessions while he is gone. This shows that the Gods ultimately disapprove when guests do not act graciously. And because the Gods can control what happens in the world below, they create justice in the end in the form of Antinous’ death.
In addition, Antinous leads the plan to kill Telemachus in order to make it easier to marry Penelope. Marrying Penelope while Odysseus may still be alive is surely rude as he is a guest in Odysseus’ home. This is another way that Antinous is a bad guest because he attempts to take what is not rightfully his. Furthermore, Telemachus demands the suitors to leave upon hearing that his father is on his way home. He says, “You must leave my palace! See to your feasting elsewhere, devour your own possessions, house to house by turns” (89). Telemachus exerts a tone of anger as Antinous and the suitors have overstayed their welcome. They, in turn, ignore Telemachus’ orders and continue to burden Penelope and her household.
Not only does Antinous exemplify bad guest manners, but he also acts as an inhospitable host to Odysseus. When Odysseus approaches Antinous disguised as a beggar, he pleads to him for some food. Odysseus even flatters Antinous, referring to him as “a king” and “the noblest one” (367). Antinous and the other suitors have already wronged Odysseus in several ways. They have attempted to kill Telemachus and marry his wife while he is away. Yet still, Odysseus gives Antinous the proper treatment as a guest, not demanding or insulting his host. However, Antinous finds him a nuisance and throws a footstool at the back of Odysseus (369). Antinous does not act generously and thus something bad is bound to happen to him.
As was during that time period, when a guest or host acted improper, he would suffer some sort of terrible fate. Antinous was neither a good guest nor a good host, and therefore he set himself up for his own death at the hands of Odysseus.
Compared to the era of Odysseus, hospitality is not seen as such a strong