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In the Greek society of Homer’s stories, hospitality was a primary quality of any household, especially a royal one. It must be remembered that Odysseus before the Trojan War was the “king” or main leader of Ithaca, a city-state of immense wealth and power. Also, widowhood (which everyone assumed was the condition of Penelope until some proof of Odysseus’ fate was found) was a socially uncomfortable condition, Greek women having very little decision-making power. Telemachos was not of age to take over his father’s position as leader of Ithaca. The gradual overfow and advantage-taking of the household began as “friends” came to pay their respects, offer condolence, etc., but gradually Penelope’s natural hospitality, together with her wealth and beauty, turned the well-wishers into suitors, all too powerful for Telemachos to combat either physically or socially. The only solution as Penelope delays her decision is for Odysseus to show up alive and reclaim his place in the household and the city-state. The final passages in the epic, describing his homecoming, disguise, and final confrontation with the “suitors,” is arguably the most dynamic and exciting action/love/family story ever written.
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