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The Importance of Xenia in The Odyssey

            Odysseus's adventure in Homer's epic, "The Odyssey," follows him on a journey where he meets an array of new people while traveling to new land. As he meets these new characters, he experiences the different forms of lack of hospitality. Homer uses Xenia, the Greek practice of hospitality to strangers, to characterize mortals, gods, and monsters as "good" or "bad" according to Greek values. These values include hospitality and generosity. Telemachus is an example of a character who demonstrates good Xenia, while Cyclops (Polyphemus) fails.
             Respect is a value inherent in the act of Xenia and one Greek character who displays respect is Telemachus. Telemachus shows respect through his hospitality towards Athena when he, "took her right hand" and brought her into his home (I. 28). By doing this he illustrated the second step of Xenia which is to bring the stranger into ones home. Telemachus, not knowing at the time the stranger was Athena, shows how much he respects others and does not discriminate against strangers. Even though he didn't know the stranger was Athena in disguise, he gave her his hospitality. In addition Telemachus further exhibits his hospitality for his new guest when he warmly says, "Greetings stranger! Welcome to our feast" (I. 30). By welcoming her to his feast he is showing care through the third step of Xenia which is to feed the guest. According to Greek values, Telemachus would be characterized as good.
             Another value that is appreciated in Ancient Greek culture is generosity. Unfortunately throughout this epic many characters show the opposite of generosity and act cruelly, thus displaying bad Xenia. In addition, when Cyclops, finds Odysseus and his men in his cave he doesn't display generosity when he immediately asks the question, "Who are you?" (IX. 711). By this hostile action, Cyclops is violating the concept of Xenia's first step which is to meet and greet the stranger.

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