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Essay on Hospitality in the Ancient and Archaic Greek Culture

4 pages
895 words
Carnegie Mellon University
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In the ancient and archaic Greek culture, it was a serious offense to mistreat strangers in a way. The term hospitality in the Greek society means love of strangers. Hospitality was very frequent during long travels such as Odysseus in The Odyssey. Hospitality was also evident in various types of relationships such as the guest-friend relationship. Hospitality was very important at this time.

During the ancient Greek people travelled for long distances. During these travels, there were no hotels where people would have a stopover and take some rest. People mainly traveled by foot or use of a boat. These modes of transport were considered to a bit slower than the modern means of transport that are being used today. Due to the speed of these means, most people ended up spending several nights away from their homes. During the travels, people had to rely on the hospitability of others to provide them with shelter, protection, and food. In turn, people would pay for that particular hospitality by the offering of gifts. The hospitality was also very important especially when one wanted to cross another nations territory. Hospitality enhanced the security of those who tried to enter into another country through a legal means without being mistreated or captured. The Xenia which was a Greek relationship that existed between two individuals who were from different regions. Through hospitality, people were able to visit their friends in the various regions where they would be offered something to eat and as well as a place to stay.

Another importance of hospitality is that it would also be used to make the name of a person more famous if the person provided strangers with high levels of hospitality. High level of hospitality by a person was a means of showing how wealthy he /she was. For example, this is evident in the epic of Odyssey it states Come, friend, and give me something, for you seem to be no lowly man among the Greeks, but their most noble lord-indeed a chief. So you should offer more than others can, I would make you famous in the endless lands. I ,too, was once a man of means ,my house was rich, I would give vagabonds to anyone who would come seeking help(Homer,p.351).It is evident in this statement that during hospitality the rich were expected to provide more as compared to what an ordinary person would offer.

During the ancient Greek period, the hospitality was also vital because it was treated as being a test from the gods. Most people practice the acts of hospitality to please the gods. Hospitability is established to be of key value in the epic during the Telemacus and Odysseus travels. During the travels, the strangers were being greeted with and then treated with various services on their arrival. After that, the visitors would be asked what they do for a living. The hospitality in the epic is portrayed to be of great value since the strangers would then be invited in for a feast, given gifts and luxuries. During the travels, most of the hosts would ask Odysseus to pray to ensure that the gods are happy as a way of appreciating the hospitality.

Although the most common mode of hospitality for a guest is throwing of a feast, in the Odyssey the consumption of food and hunger have negative associations. In the Odyssey, it acts as a representation of failure to be disciplined or a sign of submitting to temptations. We tend to see Penelope and Telemachus complaining about the guests who have not been invited and say that the suitors tend to slaughter livestock that belongs to the palace. In the epic, there is a threat of being violated if a guest or a host fails to fulfill specific responsibilities. For example, when Odysseus arrived at the island of Kirkes his people tend to be turned into animals which provokes him to go and confront the witch. The manner that Odysseus can deal with Kirke is by threatening him using his sword.

It is also evident that in the Odyssey the consumption of food and hunger have negative association between the guest and the host that results in violence. The most violent reaction would occur when the suitors end up being killed. For example in the epic when Cyclops decides to instead of welcoming Odysseus and his people it leads to his eyes being poked out. In this case, the gods were not angered by that particular action. Odysseus is praised for his actions by Zeus, and he says that by poking Clyclops eyes out he acted wisely. The statement is proof that when a host turned out not to be gracious resulted in violence.

In conclusion, in the Ancient Greece hospitality was a practice that people were required to practice to avoid facing the wrath of Zeus. According to the law of Zeus regarding hospitality when a st4ranger visited ones home, the host was required to feed and entertain the guest willingly without questioning and as well as provide the guest with other necessities including a gift. In Odyssey hospitality plays a major role. The Xenia concept shows the level of priority that is given to the laws of the gods.


Homer, Chapman, G., Nicoll, A., & Homer. (2000). Chapman's Homer: Volume 2, the Odyssey. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

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