As a story of the (really, really) long journey to return home, The Odyssey capitalizes the importance of hospitality. “Good” hospitality, commanded of the Ancient Greeks by Zeus, was the expectation of both guest and host, and “bad” hospitality was completely taboo, yet it is the difference between the two that largely defines Odysseus’s journey, as well as Telémakhos’s. This episode in Meneláos’s palace impeccably exemplifies what it means to be a proper host, even initially with his reprimand of Eteóneus for wanting to turn the travelers, Telémakhos and Peisístratos, away. Though in the middle of a double-wedding celebration, Meneláos recognizes the civic duty he has to the young lads, recalling that he would never have returned home had others not treated him with kindness, and commands that they be accepted as guests. Eventually Meneláos offers baths for the young men and has “beds, with purple rugs piled up, and sheets outspread, and fleecy coverlets” (Book IV, line 315-317) made for them; a good night’s rest allows recovery for their journey thus far and promotes pleasant travels to come. This display of hospitality and the peacefulness of the entire episode are in many ways the antithesis of Odysseus’s journey home, which began with his men violently attacking and plundering a people that offered a viole...
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...eming to believe it necessary. However, even Meneláos, in his praise and reminiscence of Odysseus cannot help but proclaim that “God himself must have been envious” of Odysseus. Helen, though she has coined herself as the cause of the war credits the war to the gods as well, lamenting that Aphrodite drew her away to Troy (Book IV, lines 275-280). Even in Book I, Zeus himself denounces humans as the cause of all their problems (lines 45-48). Therefore the question of the gods’ mediation ultimately remains questionable.
The importance of this episode and its relationship to the text as an entity are in the microscopic examinations of the macro questions posed by the text. Though there is certainly room for further examination and different interpretation, such episodes are crucial to understanding Odysseus’s journey, as well as its importance in literature and in life.
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