The concept of Xenia in Homerâ€™s Odyssey
The concept of â€œxeniaâ€, described in Homerâ€™s Odyssey as the guest-host
relationship played a dominant part in ancient Greece. According to what they believed,
the guest-host relationship was based on the idea that courtesy would be reciprocal from
host and guest. The different ways that Telemachos and Odysseus are treated throughout their journeys displays the positive and negative types of xenia.
The Odyssey begins 20 years after Odysseus has left Ithaca. Ten of those years he spent fighting in the Trojan War. The remaining years he attempts to go back home to Ithaca, but his journey becomes quite difficult since Poseidon becomes Odysseus persecutor, just as Athene is firmly established as his protector. In one of his numerous journeys Odysseus meets the Phaiakians who receive him with warm hospitality without having to ask for his name first. â€œThis is not the better way, nor is it fitting that the stranger should sit on the ground beside the hearth, in the ashesâ€¦But come, raise the stranger up and seat him on a silver studded chair and tell your heralds to mix in more wine for usâ€¦And let the house keeper from her stores give the stranger a supper.â€ (Book IV P.115 Lines 159-166) From this we can assume that the Phaiakians didnâ€™t know that they were interacting with Odysseus the hero of the Trojan War yet treated him as welcoming as possible like they would do with anyone else.
Shortly before the return of Odysseus, Telemachos visits the mainland in search of news of his father. From Menelaos he received generosity. He didnâ€™t turn Telemachos away even though he was visiting the moment they were celebrating the wedding of one of his children. On the other hand he replied by stating that it would be nonsense because they themselves have enjoy the hospitality of others. He orders to have them brough