What did King Alcinous do in The Odyssey?

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Julie Feng eNotes educator| Certified Educator

King Alcinous, along with his wife queen Arete, ruled the land of the Phaeacians. In the Odyssey, the exemplify the ultimate "good hosts." Greek culture values "xenos," which means hospitality towards strangers. Throughout the Odyssey, Odysseus encounters many "hosts" who break the value of xenos, such as when the Cyclops Polyphemus ate many of his men and tried to trap them all in his cave, or when the sea witch Circe turned Odysseus's men into pigs. 

Phaeacia is the last stop Odysseus makes before he finally makes it home after twenty years of journeying. He is only able to finally make it because of King Alcinous and his family. Before Alcinous even know that his visitor is the famous hero Odysseus, he treats him wonderfully, like an honored guest. King Alcinous holds many feasts and events, including a pentathlon. When he invites the blind bard Demodocus to sing about the Trojan War, Odysseus's emotional reaction reveals who he is. At this point, Alcinous acts as the "listener" of Odysseus's tale, so the audience can learn about what happened to him as well. Alcinous's hospitable actions even extend to offering his daughter Nausicaa in marriage (although Odysseus feels affection towards her, he rejects this offer because he wants to get home to his wife Penelope). 

The Phaeacians are famed for their skills as sailors, so Alcinous supplies Odysseus with ships, men, and supplies to get him home to Ithaca. The skills of the Phaeacian mariners is the only thing that can get Odysseus through the wrathful sea (because Poseidon, the god of the sea, is still mad at Odysseus). 

In general, the portion of the epic poem that involves King Alcinous and the Phaeacians is a sort of "happy interlude" in the midst of all the tragedies and sadnesses and inability to get home. 

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Alcinous is the king of Phaeacia, and he places Odysseus on one of his magicL ships that finally returns him to Ithaca. Alcinous's wife, Queen Arete, is likewise impressed with the godly stranger, and Alcinous is so impressed that he offers Odysseus the hand of his daughter, Nausicaa, in marriage. Odysseus turns him down, of course, because his only desire is to return to Ithaca and his wife, Penelope. Alcinous is a kind host who makes the stranger feel at home, and when he discovers Odysseus's true identity, he is overwhelmed at the honor of hosting such a hero on his island. Alcinous throws a feast for Odysseus, in which the guest reveals his many stories. Alcinous promises even for gifts for Odysseus if he will continue his storytelling, and the ship that will take Odysseus home is laden with treasures. Alcinous makes good his promise, and while Odysseus sleeps, the magical ship arrives in Ithaca by morning.

krys97 | Student

his daughter Nausicaa found odysseus in like a bush. king al welcomed oddyseus and fed him, then after odysseus told him his story. king al supplied him with a ship and crew to get home