The Odyssey by Homer is a Greek epic poem centring on the journey home of Odysseus. After the Troy fell, a Greek warrior Odysseus takes the road home to the city Ithaca where he left his beloved wife and son. But this travel turns out to be ten years long as on his way Odysseus meets many people gracefully welcoming him to their place. For this reason, hospitality is one of the main themes throughout the story. It is a kind of social interchange that lies in expressing honour and respect to a stranger which he is obliged to accept. Homer highlights the theme of hospitality in many episodes thus showing that the Ancient Greeks valued the tradition of hosting newcomers. They believed that a traveller or a beggar comes just right from Zeus. Being hospitable meant giving everything they had to the stranger.
One of the brightest examples of the Greek hospitality is when Odysseus appears on the island of Scheria. The king’s daughter treats him like a royalty offering him the best seat, food, and other honours. Another scene proves that hosts in days gone by received newcomers on equal terms. One day Odysseus dressed as a beggar comes to the house of his servant Eumaeus. Straight after him, Eumaeus’s son Telemachus returns from a long march from Sparta. Odysseus rises to offer Telemachus the seat but the latter refuses and patiently waits till his father gives him another place to rest. Homer depicts the welcoming episode in which Odysseus meets King Nestor and afterwards King Menelaos. Both kings shelter a traveller by giving him food, entertainment and presents. By this Homer emphasizes that hospitality values are equally accepted by people of different social status. Greeks sincerely take it for granted to serve a human no matter whether he is a wanderer or a prince.
However, Homer does not stay away from the theme of bad hospitality and bad guests. Being hospitable means being in favour with the gods. As for example, we can see it when Odysseus realizes that Eumaios shelters him not for sweet words but for the trouble. Swineherd’s speech vividly shows how Greeks recognise the power of gods.
The Odyssey contains more than enough scenes of hospitality in which hosts keep an open table for the guest. By studying these examples, we can learn quite more about the ancient culture of Greeks, their beliefs and character. Moreover, we need to understand that hospitality of the past is quite different from what we have now.
The Odyssey by Homer is a Greek epic poem centring on the journey home of Odysseus. After the Troy fell, a Greek warrior Odysseus takes the road home to the city Ithaca where he left his beloved wife and son. But this travel turns out to be ten years long as on his way Odysseus meets many people gracefully welcoming him to their place.