What types of behavior are approved and condemned in "The Odyssey"?

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Susan Woodward eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Approved behaviors include treating guests with honor and respect, acting as a good guest when one in in another's home, honoring the gods, and standing up for what one believes is right.  Hospitality was a religious duty to the Greeks because one never knew for sure whether or not a stranger begging for food was actually a god in disguise testing the owner of the house.  All guests were to be treated with respect, which is one of the reasons why Telemachus doesn't tell the Suitors that they have to leave, even when they are behaving poorly.  Telemachus behaves honorably when in the home of Menelaus, and so acts as a proper guest.  When Odysseus sacrifiices the ram in the Land of the Dead, he shows proper respect to the gods and to Tieresias.  As for standing up for what is right, Telemachus is only showed a modicum of respect when he stands up to the Suitors who then say, "Now he talks like a man!"

Condemned behavior would include arrogance, angering the gods, and behaving as a poor host or guest.  Odysseus was arrogant when he told Polyphemus his name only after blinding him, and then threatened to kill the Cyclops if he came back to the island.  His arrogance led Polyphemus to pray to his father Poseidon to curse Odysseus and his crew.  Odysseus' men paid the ultimate price for angering Helios by eating his cattle.  Also, the Suitors were punished for being very bad guests.


buz713zle eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Approved Behaviors

1. Xenia- good hospitality = being a good host and guest (Telemachus' visit to Sparta, Book 4)

2. Reverence to the gods = animal sacrifices (Telemachus' visit to Pylos, Book 3; Odysseus' arrival in Ithaca)

3. Keeping promises- any oath sworn by the River Styx must be kept (Calypso's promise to release Odysseus)

4. Respecting the dead (Odysseus buries Elpenor, Book 12) 

Condemned Behaviors

1. Excessive pride (hubris)- mortals bragging that they're better than the gods (Odysseus' taunt of Polyphemus, Book 9)

2. Deceiving the gods = feeding them mortal flesh (Tantalus, Book 11)

3. Murdering your own children = Tantalus' murder of Pelops, in some verisions Agamemnon's murder of Iphigenia (Book 11)

4. Disobeying one's master (class system)

5. Greed = Ajax and Odysseus fight over Achilles' armor (Book 11)