Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer
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What is the swineherd's name in the Odyssey? What is the difference between him and Polyphemus?

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The swineherd's name is Eumaeus, and he could not be more different than Polyphemus. In addition to being a normal person rather than a hideous Cyclops, Eumaeus actually obeys the laws of hospitality, rather than flouting them like Polyphemus.

The laws of hospitality were especially important in Homer 's day,...

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The swineherd's name is Eumaeus, and he could not be more different than Polyphemus. In addition to being a normal person rather than a hideous Cyclops, Eumaeus actually obeys the laws of hospitality, rather than flouting them like Polyphemus.

The laws of hospitality were especially important in Homer's day, as traveling was much more difficult than it is now. Additionally, there weren't any Motel 6's in Ancient Greece, or many inns at all, and so it was very important for people to open their homes to wayward travelers. As such, Polyphemus' decision to devour Odysseus' crew, rather than offer them food and lodging, was a major breach of etiquette. 

Conversely, Eumaeus over delivers in the hospitality department. The trusty swineherd insists that Odysseus stay for an extended period of time, even after the king offers to leave early and support himself on his own. In that case, Eumaeus does not merely provide the minimum hospitality, but provides far more than necessary, offering a foil for Polyphemus' gruesome manners.

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