The Odyssey

define xenia & its role and purpose as a motif in the Odyssey. Give examples of characters that do and characters that don't

the god book about odysseus

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One of the most important cultural values in the Odyssey is that of xenia, a Greek concept encompassing the generosity and courtesy shown to those who are far from home.


Odysseus’s journey takes place in a world in which vast swaths of uninhabited land separate human civilizations. Traveling between those settlements involves facing both natural and supernatural perils, as well as logistical problems like shortages in provisions. The code of hospitality operates as a linchpin that allows individuals such as Odysseus to undertake these kinds of journeys at all. It is a set of reciprocal expectations and obligations that not only mitigate the privations of travel but forge and reinforce bonds of friendship and goodwill. Not surprisingly, the Odyssey doles out harsh punishments to those who do not respect this sacred social code. Polyphemus, the suitors, and the Achaean soldiers at Ismarus all suffer for violating it. By the same token, individuals such as Eumaeus and the Phaeacian royalty prove their worth to Odysseus by showering him with selfless generosity and kindness. Within the Odyssey, adherence to the code functions as a kind of imperfect currency. If one acts in accordance with the rules, one will generally, but not always, be rewarded.


SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on The Odyssey.” SparkNotes LLC. 2002. Web. 17 May 2012.