Hospitality In Odyssey
Hospitality In Odyssey
Hospitality has played a large role in ancient Mycenaen society and is even evident in the writings of the time, as witnessed in Homer’s Odyssey. Hospitality reveals itself as a domineering factor in the way characters act and the way characters are treated in the Odyssey.
One instance of the role of hospitality in the Odyssey occurs early on in the epic when Telemachus secretly set off to find Nestor. Upon first sight of Telemachus and Athene and without any inquiries about who they were, Nestor’s son Peisistratus invited them to the banquet that was in progress. It was not until after Telemachus and Athene had had their fill of food and gotten comfortable that they were asked who they were and where they came from. It seems to have been a common gesture of courtesy in ancient Greek culture to offer guests food and entertainment before attending to business.
A second instance of hospitality at work in the Odyssey came in book six when Nausicaa found Odysseus on the shores of Scherie. Even though Odysseus must have appeared intimidating, or even monstrous, Nausicaa felt obligated to help. As was the case when Telemachus visited Nestor, food and drink was readily given to Odysseus shortly after his arrival at the palace. Even though Odysseus was a total stranger, he was still promised food, shelter, and a ride back to his homeland.
These gestures of hospitality in the Odyssey were used as an instrument to tell the reader who were the protagonists and who were the antagonists. All of the good characters immediately took Odysseus or his son Telemachus into their homes and fed them. None of the antagonists in the story ever exhibited any form of hospitality towards Odysseus or Telemachus. In the Odyssey, the good offered hospitality, and the bad fed off of the hospitality of others.
Hospitality seemed to play a major role in ancient Greek societies. Social status appears to have been determined by how well a person could accommodate his guests. Only the poor or uncivilized could not accommodate guests. The richest and most prestigious of Homeric society gave the best food and most expensive parting gifts. Giving good hospitality was the best thing ancient Greeks could do to please the gods.
Among all cultural elements of ancient Greek society embodied in the Odyssey, hospitality was probably the most prominent. Nearly every encounter in the epic exhibited some form of hospitality. Only enemies did not feed and shelter each other. This shows that the ancient Greeks valued a social society in which each person was obligated to help others when in need.