The Guest Host Relationship in The Odyssey

Essay by a071302University, Bachelor'sA+, April 2004

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In the American culture today, there are certain guidelines to which we must conform when we are a guest in someone's home. If we are invited to a friend's house for dinner, it is customary to find out what we are expected to bring. This is just common knowledge.

During the time of the Ancient Greeks, similar guidelines were in place that delineated the relationship between guest and host. According to a commentary by Russell Murphy, this was a time in which "One [was] required to be welcoming to strangers or else be thought of as a godless outlaw" (The Odyssey: A Commentary, page 1).

The guidelines in Ancient Greece were very important. The guest treated the host with respect and dignity, while the host freely provided the guest with food and shelter, and showered the visitor with gifts upon departure. While reading The Odyssey, it is clear that when the guidelines are properly executed, guest, host, or both benefit.

It the guidelines are not followed, or even ignored, a malevolent force gains control of the situation and, many times, the guest, host, or both suffer the consequences.

In Homer's, The Odyssey, there are many good guest-host relationships in addition to many bad ones. The encounter between Polyphemos and Odysseus and between the suitors and Odysseus' house are examples of mutual disrespect for the guest-host relationship. Eumaios, the swineherd, and Odysseus are a perfect example of how a guest and host should behave.

When Odysseus and his men first reached the land of the Kyklopes, they kept at bay until Odysseus decided that he wanted to go exploring. "'Old shipmates, friends, the rest of you stand by; I'll make the crossing in my own ship, with my own company, and find out what the mainland natives are - for...