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One of the dominant themes in Homer's Odyssey is found within the Greek word, xenia, which is translated as "hospitality" or "guest-friendship." Throughout Homer's epic poem, we find relationships between hosts and guests depicted. Unlike the host-guest relationship in modern American society, in which polite guests often bring their hosts a gift, in Homeric society it was customary for the host to provide the guest with a gift. Furthermore, unlike modern American society, where religion ordinarily does not play a role in the host-guest relationship, in Greek culture, the host-guest relationship was overseen by the gods. Thus, in Odyssey 9, the title character tells the epic's worst host, the Cyclops:
Good sir, do not refuse us: respect the gods. We are suppliants and Zeus protects visitors and suppliants, Zeus the god of guests, who follows the steps of sacred travellers. (A.S. Kline translation)
Given Odysseus' remark here, we can see that in Homer's epic religion and hospitality are intertwined. Given this, we can explore how Odysseus' numerous encounters with various hosts (e.g., the Cyclops, the Phaeacians, Eumaeus) throughout the epic teach him how hosts should behave and reinforce to him why he is justified in destroying the Suitors who infest his house on Ithaca.
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