The Importance Of Hospitality In The Odyssey

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The ethic of hospitality is quite prevalent in Homer’s Odyssey. Its presence shows how important hospitality was to the ancient Greeks. They were expected to host others in need as if they were one’s own family, and guests were expected to respect their hosts. The gods are responsible for punishing those who practice improper hospitality. As it turns out, many of the characters in The Odyssey do not follow the Greek ethic of hospitality, and are subsequently punished by the gods for doing so. In this way, the ethic of hospitality explains why the gods intervene in human affairs, and thus becomes a main driving force behind The Odyssey. For much of The Odyssey, Poseidon torments Odysseus and his men. Odysseus’ improper hospitality at the Cyclops’ …show more content…
Circe warns Odysseus beforehand not to eat the cattle of the sun, else he will return home “ a broken man—all shipmates lost, alone in a stranger’s ship” (Fagles 253). Odysseus heeds Circe’s warning and does not eat the cattle of the sun, and he even makes his men swear an oath that “No man among us… will slaughter an ox or ram” (Fagles 280). However, he is helpless to dissuade his crew from eating the cattle once they run out of supplies. When Odysseus’ men eat the cattle of the sun, Helios, the sun god, goes to Zeus and demands retribution for this heinous breach of hospitality. Zeus promises Helios that he will “hit their ship with a white hot bolt, [and] tear it into splinters” (Fagles 283). Zeus must punish Odysseus’ men for eating the cattle of the sun without Helios’ permission, because it is his duty as leader of the gods to uphold the ethic of hospitality. Odysseus alone survives the shipwreck, because he was the only man in his group who did not break hospitality and eat the cattle of the …show more content…
However, Agamemnon’s wife was not quite as faithful to him as Penelope was to Odysseus, because she was having an affair with Aegisthus. Agamemnon was “killed by Aegisthus’ cunning—by his own wife” (Fagles 115). Aegisthus and Agamemnon’s wife decide to kill Agamemnon so that they may continue their affair. Eventually, Aegisthus is killed to avenge the death of Agamemnon. Aegisthus is the extreme example of improper hospitality while a man is away at war. Odysseus had to return disguised as a beggar, because he could “have died the same ignoble death as Agamemnon” (Fagles 299). So, Odysseus goes into his house in disguise so that he can discover for himself if Penelope was unfaithful to him, and to determine whether he will be in danger when he officially returns. Athena helps Odysseus, because the gods are trying to protect the ethic of hospitality by punishing the suitors that violated the Odysseus’

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