Hospitality and Politeness in The Odyssey

The Greeks have been known for their hospitality and politeness, especially when treating guests- whether strangers or not. This is demonstrated near the beginning of the Odyssey when Telemachus went to Pylos to visit Nestor. Nestor, not knowing who he was taking into his home as guests, treated them with great honor and respect. “Now is the time,” he said, “for a few questions, now that our young guests have enjoyed their dinner. Who are you, strangers? Where are you sailing from, and where to, down the highways of sea water (p 299)?

If ever Greeks were to serve themselves before their guests or even a little better than them, then they were breaking the most basic of all Greek customs, for this tradition of hospitality was passed down from generation to generation, and breaking it would bring embarrassment and dishonor upon the home. Learning the Greek rituals and after practicing them for many years, Odysseus, Odysseus’ shipmates, and Telemachus became very reliant Greek tradition, especially that of treating all guests with great hospitality.

At many times Odysseus would not have made it back to his wife and kingdom if it was not for the Greek tradition, that he relied on. After being at sea for seventeen days on a raft he had constructed, Odysseus spotted land. Poseidon then brought about a terrible storm, which wrecked his raft. After two days of battling waves that brought him near death, Odysseus was finally helped by a sea nymph onto the shore of Scheria. Once reaching the shore he kissed the earth, crawled under some olive trees, and fell asleep.

Later, Princess Nausicca and her young friends went to the shore of Scheria to wash their clothes. Playing ball, Princess Nausicca and her friends woke up Odysseus. In a tactful speech he praised Nausicca’s beauty and asked for her help. The girls washed, fed, and clothed him. Impressed with his manliness, Nausicca told him how to get into town and appeal to her mother for even greater hospitality. Queen Arete and King Alcinous gave Odysseus the best of what they had and showed him great hospitality.

The King also offered his daughter’s hand in marriage, or if he desired, assistance in returning home. Nearest his throne the son whom he loved best, Laodamas, had long held place; now the king bade him rise and gave his shining chair to Lord Odysseus. A serving maid poured water for his havds from a gold pitcher into a silver bowl, and spead a polished table at his side; the mistress of provisions came with bread and other victuals, generous with her store. So lord Odysseus drank, and tasted supper (p 356).

The next day Alcinous also ordered a feast and an athletic contest to be held in honor of the stranger. If Odysseus did not receive the courtesy that the people of Scheria showed to him while he was at Scheria, there would have been a good chance for him not being able to make it back to his family and kingdom. Odysseus was deceived a number of times by his assumption that he and his crew would be cared for with the same Greek hospitality and kindness they were accustomed to. One such example was when Odysseus landed on the island of Kyclops.

After landing, Odysseus and twelve of his shipmates went into Kyclop’s lair, expecting to receive food and provisions. He and his men helped themselves to the giants food and built a fire while waited on him to return home. Odysseus said, “Here we stand, beholden for your help, or any gifts you give-as custom is to honor strangers (p 381). ” Instead of giving them help or gifts to help them get back to their home, the great one eyed giant, Polyphemus, trapped Odysseus and his twelve shipmates in his lair, blocking their escape with a massive boulder.

His intentions were to make an appetizing meal out of them. That night, Polyphemus ate two of Odysseus’ men for dinner. After Polyphemus ate two more men the next morning, Odysseus and his six surviving shipmates came up with and carried out a carefully laid scheme to get back to their ship safely. After plunging a heated stake into his eye, they disguised themselves as sheep and were able to slip past the one eyed giant. This experience that Odysseus and his shipmates had, taught them not to be so dependant on others.

If they would not have been dependant on Kylcops to give them food and provisions, it would have saved them many lives and saved them a lot of time and trouble. In most cases, the Greek tradition of Hospitality to all guests saved Odysseus and helped him return home to his wife, son, and kingdom. Even though people from many different kingdoms and islands took Odysseus in their home and showed him great kindness on his return home, the individual who helped him most was the goddess Athena. In many occasions Athena assisted Odysseus.

One such example is when Odysseus was fighting of the suitors and they threw spears at him. “Re-forming, the suitors threw again with all their strength, but Athena turned their shots, or all but two (p 566). ” Another instance which Athena aided Odysseus was when she disguised him as a beggar on his arrival to his homeland. “Would even you have guessed that I am Pallas Athena, daughter of Zeus, I that am always with you in times of trial, a shield to you in battle (p 444). ” “Your goddess-guardian to the end in all your trials (p 539). “

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