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Hospitality in the Greek Culture Shown in the Odyssey

             The story of The Odyssey shows the importance of hospitality and generosity in the relationship of guest and host. In book 22, Odysseus returns to find that the guests of his house have grossly desecrated on these sacred customs and have disrespected him and his station. They are not only trying to steal his wife and murder his child, but also they have consumed a great deal of his livestock and other products. These guests have overstepped their bounds in the sacred trust between host and visitor and should be punished. Not only have they disrespected Odysseus, but they have "no fear of the gods" with their lack of hospitality, and particularly Zeus is also angered with them (441.40). The slaying of the suitors is acceptable in this situation because of their direct disobedience to the customs and the personal insults given to Odysseus.
             The slaying of the suitors is justified because they were fully conscious of the crimes they were committing and were warned that Odysseus would return and claim this vengeance. Over the course of the piece, several prophecies are made on Odysseus" return and that the day of reckoning for the suitors would come soon. These men who were supposedly loyal to their king "bled his house to death" and tried to overthrow him with wooing his wife and planning to assassinate the prince in his absence. This is complete treachery and their end is justly deserved (440.38). Also, Eurymachus even agrees with Odysseus" anger and tells him he has the "right" to want to kill them all off (441.48). All of the suitors were offered the chance to leave before they were killed, but they chose to fight instead. Odysseus gave them the chance to "fight [him] or flee" and they chose to stay and be slaughtered, even though they all understood how mighty Odysseus is (441.69). Odysseus could have simply executed them all, but instead he gave them the chance to fight him and at least have a small chance of surviving.

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