Importance Of Food In The Odyssey

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There were many customs in Ancient Greece that we no longer follow in todays’ society. One of these customs is hospitality. Todays’ society would not celebrate strangers in their homes by hosting feasts in their honor, but this is exactly what they would do in ancient Greece. During these feasts the food would help denote the hosts social status; the more elegant and erotic the food, the higher you were on the social ladder. When looking at the epic poem The Odyssey, food has much more than a literal representation. As it is also seen as a symbol of temptation. Homer begins The Odyssey with a passage about why most of Odysseus’ men did not make it home from their voyage. It says “the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all, the blind…show more content…
Odysseus sends crew members out into the land to discover who lived there. When the crew members found the Lotus-eaters they convinced the other members to eat the lotus. Odysseus has to physically haul his shipmates away in order to leave the island. For the reader, the narrow and mysterious description of this plant is enticing in itself ; “Any crewmen who ate the lotus, the honey-sweet fruit, lost all desire to send a message back, much less return, their only wish to linger there with the Lotus-eaters, grazing on lotus, all memory of the journey home dissolved forever” (9 106-110). The image of the lotus blossom immediately comes to mind and is associated with pungent and sweet fragrances, thus making the idea itself appealing. The importance of this image is not the food itself, but the dreamy mind-altering effect it has on the people who eat…show more content…
First, and clearly the most obvious, is that it is part of the scenes that shows the Ancient Greek tradition of hospitality. Banquets and feasts occur during weddings and arrivals or departures, and these offer hosts the opportunity to show off their hospitality, wealth and social status. Many scenes, like the one at the banquet of Helen and Menelaus, are described in gorgeous detail and describe the luxurious food that is eaten and the silver bowls that the food is eaten off of. Although the next meaning is more hidden, food’s second function in this epic poem is as a symbol of temptation. For the hungry, tired, and homesick men accompanying Odysseus, the image of a plain plate of bread or cheese is plenty of temptation. When this transpires, at the cave of the Cyclops, the punishment is immediate. For Odysseus himself, however, his strength and god-like nature are beyond such base temptations and he is instead susceptible to the double-temptation of exotic and richly described foods coupled with a woman. While having a delayed journey back to his wife and estate punishes Odysseus, this is relatively minor compared to fates of others who were punished for their submission to the temptation of food by death. Odysseus sanctions the final punishment for gluttony, temptation, and sloth on the suitors living off of his land and livestock and so the theme of food images, temptation, and punishment is seen through
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