The Odyssey

Sparing Nothing: The Representation of Food in The Odyssey

Homer's epic The Odyssey is superimposed on the backdrop of a typical ancient Greek society. As the main character, Odysseus, and his companions travel from place to place on their way to their hometown of Ithaka, various people welcome them in a show of hospitality highly valued in ancient Greece. In large part, such hospitality involves the preparation of feasts, and the offering of each guest ample amounts of food. Some guests, however, naturally take advantage of this hospitality, thus showing their lack of discipline and manners. Although food is positively associated with the Greek tradition of hospitality, Homer uses it in a negative sense in The Odyssey to represent the gluttony, lack of self-control, and lack of civility found in various characters.

Upon docking their ship on the island of the Lotus-eaters, Odysseus' men engage in a gluttonous feast of lotus fruit, which causes them to neglect their duties to Odysseus. They are so hypnotized by the delicious taste that "any of them who ate the honey-sweet fruit...was unwilling to take any message back, or to go away, but they wanted to stay there with the lotus-eating people, feeding on lotus, and forget the way home" (IX:94-97). Odysseus, the leader...

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