A story centered on homecoming and traveling, The Odyssey by Homer, set in Ancient Greece, has key themes, which include hospitality and the treatment of travelers and strangers. These reoccurring themes are depicted often as Odysseus and Telemakhos show up at the doorsteps of his various hosts, and these themes prove how inhospitable the suitors are. The difference between good and bad is clearly drawn in the Odyssey, good people are hospitable, they hope for Odysseus’ return, and are kind to Odysseus when he is disguised as a beggar.
While bad people abuse hospitality in some way, wish Odysseus dead, and are rude to the beggar. Hospitality defines the lines of good and bad in the Odyssey. First, Telemakhos is shown hospitality wherever he goes. When Telemakhos calls the meeting of the town of Ithaka, he is allowed to speak without any thought from the townspeople that it wasnt his place. When an old wise man asks who called the meeting and Telemakhos stood up and said he did, everyone listened and accepted him as an equal (20-21). A further example of Telemakhos being received by everyone is when Telemakhos goes to Menaleoss house.
When the kings companion in arms asks Menelaos if they are to receive Telemakhos, Menelaos answers, Could we have made it home again if other men/ had never fed us, given us lodging? / Bring/ these men to be our guest: unhitch their team! (54). When Menelaos says this; Telemakhos is once again given hospitality. But he is welcome because Menelaos would never deny anything to Odysseuss son. Telemakhos is probably given hospitality by different people on his short journey because Athena made the journey easier for him.
Lastly, Nestor gives Telemakhos hospitality. Nestor shows how much he fears the gods if he turns away a traveler by saying, Now Zeus forbid, and the other gods as well, /no blankets in this house, no pile of soft rugs, / no sleeping soft for host and guest! (45). When Nestor says this, Telemakhos is again given hospitality by Menelaos and Menelaos doesnt even ask Telemakhos whom he is until he is bathed, fed and well cloaked. These examples show how Telemakhos was extended hospitality without any questions, even if a goddess had to intervene to get it for him.
The suitors show little to no hospitality to anyone and abuse the hospitality shown to them. First, all of the suitors are extremely rude to Penelope and Telemakhos after they show the suitors hospitality. When Telemakhos tells Athena of the suitors rude behavior at the beginning of the poem, she was disturbed by how much Telemakhos needed Odysseus; For now the lords of the islands, / are here courting my mother; and they use/ our house as if were to plunder. / Meanwhile they eat their way through all we have, / and when they will, they can demolish me, (9).
This quote shows how the suitors have terrified Telemakhos, the boy, into believing that if he does anything to try to stop the suitors, and then he will be annihilated. It also shows how the suitors are being uncouth to these wonderful hosts of whom they have taken advantage. Secondly, Antinoos (the leader of the suitors) isnt hospitable to Odysseus who is disguised as a beggar in his own home: God! / What evil wind blew in this pest? / Get over/ stand in this passage! Nudge my table, will you? / Egyptian whips are sweet to what youll come to here/ These men have bread to throw away on you/ because it isnt theirs.
Who cares? Who spares/ anothers food when he has more than plenty? (325). When Antinoos says this, he obviously wasnt raised with a strong male figure to show him right from wrong and has always had everything handed to him by his weak father. He doesnt care who or what he destroys or how the gods determine his fate or what they think of him. Lastly, an example of a hospitable suitor, or one with his wits about him, is just a nameless suitor. When Antinoos is done making fun of Odysseus, this suitor says, A poor show, that hitting this famished tramp-/ bad business, if he happened to be a god.
You know they go in foreign disguise, the gods do, / looking like strangers, turning up/ in towns and settlements to keep an eye/ on manners, good and bad, (327). Through this passage, we learn that all suitors arent a black-hearted as Antinoos. But since this nameless suitor is still being rude to Odysseuss house and family, he is still being inhospitable to Odysseus, and that is why he must be killed along with the rest of the suitors. Through these quotes, we see how loutish the suitors were to Odysseus through inhospitality and through how they treated Penelope and Telemakhos.
Lastly, hospitality is shown to Odysseus in good and bad ways. For example, the Cyclopes, Polypemus represents total lawlessness–he does not seem to feel bound by human, moral, cultural, or divine laws. He openly mocks the gods, saying that he will not do anything out of fear of Zeus (line 272). He does not obey the cultural rules of hospitality; on the contrary, he gruesomely devours six of Odysseus’ men and would have eaten them all had not Odysseus devised his and his mens escape. However Kirke shows an example of good hospitality.
This hospitality is shown only after Odysseus bests her and makes her release his men, which she had turned into swine. After she falls for him, she asks Odysseus to Remain with me, and share my meat and wine;/ restore behind your ribs those gallant hearts/ that served you in the old days, when you sailed/ from stony Ithaka, (p179). Kirke shows hospitality in this instance, because she is in love with Odysseus. But since she is a goddess, she doesnt have to be fearful of the gods wrath except for Zeuss, and consequently doesnt usually show good hospitality unless she is ordered to do so by Zeus.
Lastly, Eumaios shows good hospitality, even though he is poor and doesnt have much to give to Odysseus. When Odysseus is almost attacked by the watch dogs Eumaios welcomes Odysseus by saying, rudeness to a stranger is not decency, / All wanderers/ and beggars come from Zeus. What we can give is slight but well meant- all we dare, (249). Eumaios saying this shows that he is a good man and will give as much as he possibly can to any stranger including Odysseus. Also, Eumaios knows what it is like to be a beggar because when he was a boy, he was stranded on Ithaca and Odysseys family took him in as one of their own children and raised him.
Without hospitality, Eumaios would still be a beggar, so that is why he shows hospitality to other people. In these contrasting ways, Odysseus was shown both good and bad hospitality through a variety of characters. It is easy to see that the rules of hospitality in the universe of The Odyssey are set at a high bar, and that it is expected that a man take in guests at his door. It is interesting to note that a major abuse of hospitality prompted the entire Trojan War: Paris, as a guest of Menelaos, stole Menelaos wife Helen and fled back to Troy. The lesson learned is always be kind, because you cannot be sure with whom you are dealing.