Hospitality Is Entertaining a Friend of a Stranger

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Hospitality, according to Wikipedia’s definition, it as a generous reception or entertainment of guests; however, the Greeks have a better definition. In Greek, hospitality is translated to philoxenia, or literally “friend of a stranger”. This is a deeper meaning of hospitality, and it is displayed in many forms and fashions, even in literature. Homer’s epic, The Odyssey, is a prime example of a piece of literature that contains the theme of hospitality. The Odyssey centers on a man named Odysseus and his journey back to his homeland, Ithaka, after the Trojan War. Throughout the story, Homer constantly reveals the hospitality the Greek citizens offer to fellow travelers, for the Greeks fear that the travelers are gods who will punish them if they do not accept them into their home. In The Odyssey, Homer demonstrates Greek society’s true hospitality through the characters of Alkinoos and Meneleus.

Alkinoos, king of the Phaikians, is a very hospitable man to travelers. When Odysseus has been released from Kalypso’s island, he eventually comes upon the shore of Sharia, the island of the Phaikians. Odysseus comes to the palace with a princess, Nausikaa, where he meets Alkinoos, king of the Phaikians. Immediately upon an assembly of the island’s citizens, Alkinoos grants Odysseus a ship and a crew to return back to his homeland. He wants to ‘“…provide/ passage, and quickly, for no guest of [his]/ languishes here for lack of it”’ (Homer 8.34-36). Alkinoos has no reason to give Odysseus a ship and crew, yet he is doing it out of his commitment to hospitality. He still has not learned Odysseus’ name yet he already grants a ship to Odysseus for nothing in exchange. To a complete stranger, he has sacrificed one of his most valuable resou...

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...lemakhos and his men. No traveler, in his opinion, should be left without shelter. No Greek should ever abandon a traveler for the cultural expectation was to be a friend to a stranger.

Even kings, with the highest status in society, were expected to demonstrate genuine hospitality in ancient Greek society. Meneleus and Alkinoos, both kings, offer hospitality to travelers. Alkinoos accepts Odysseus into his home and gives him a ship and crew to return back home. Meneleus offers Telemakhos and his friends, who are complete strangers, food and lodging. Both kings do not have to accommodate the travelers, but they do so out of the obedience of their cultural expectations.

Works Citied

“Hospitality”. Wikipedia Organization . Web. 5 Dec 2013.

Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc. 1961.

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