There are many different themes in The Odyssey, but the most prominent theme Homer portrays in his epic poem is hospitality or Xenia. The act of Xenia was perhaps the most important Greek custom out of all because you see it being performed time and time again throughout Odysseus’ journey home. The Odyssey was about the twenty year long journey of King Odysseus return to Ithaca from battling in the Trojan War. The theme of hospitality is present not only while Odysseus is travelling from city to city, but also at his home in Ithaca, where his wife and son, Penelope and Telemachus’, palace is being overrun with suitors.
On Odysseus’ trying journey home, he was welcomed by several kings displaying Xenia, not only because it was Greek custom, but because it was disrespectful to Zeus, the god of hospitality, if they didn’t. After departing from Calypso’s island and facing a heavy storm Poseidon stirred, Odysseus finally landed on Scheria. The king’s daughter Nausicaa saw Odysseus and explained, “But now, you’ve reached out city and our land, you’ll never lack for clothing or any other gift, the right of worn-out suppliants come our way (6.210-213). This is a prime example of how obedient the Ancient Greeks following their strong traditions. Nausicaa didn’t hesitate to help Odysseus and seemed proud as she was describing her city, which portrays another theme which is Kleos.
The idea of Xenia was highly regarded in The Odyssey, and disrespecting it was completely unacceptable. In the beginning, Telemachus and Penelope had to unwillingly host 108 suitors who took advantage of their hospitality. This was a crime that was impermissible so Mentor explains, “Reach deep down in your heart and soul for a way to kill these suitors in your house by stealth or open combat” (1.339). This is an example of how seriously the Ancient Greeks valued hospitality and respect for the gods. It also illustrates the Greeks extreme behavior towards people abusing their cultural values.
Hospitality was so important in the Ancient Greek’s lives that they obeyed their tradition even if it may have displeased them. In book fourteen, when Odysseus returned to Ithaca and went to the swineherd disguised. Eumaeus invites him in, feeds him, and gives him a place to sleep. The text reads “Not his style to bed indoors, apart from the pigs. He geared up to go outside and it warmed Odysseus’ heart”. (14.592-595) This proves how willing the Greeks were to please their guests, for instance, Eumaeus let Odysseus sleep by the fire with goat and sheep skin, while he slept outside in the cold with the swine. This also illustrates how true they were to Xenia and Piety.
In conclusion, this evidence is a great representation of the Greeks values and lifestyle. The Odyssey illustrates the importance of respecting the gods, and of being hospitable in the Ancient Greek culture. The people in this story went to extreme measures to please their guests and protect their values, like sleeping with swine or killing men who took advantage of people’s Xenia. The Odyssey taught young schoolboys how to act, and it is obvious that hospitality was a key component to a Greeks everyday life.