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The Value of Hospitality
...Why So Hospitable?
Hospitality in Homer’s time was well shown through long travels such as Odysseus' in The Odyssey as well as the guest-friend relationship, known as xenia. There are many possible reasons why hospitality was more prevalent in those times. Traveling in Homer’s time was much more extensive and lengthier than in modern times. The less advanced methods of transportation used in Homeric times, such as by boat or by foot, were much slower than modern forms of transportation. Because of this, many more nights were spent away from home in many different locations. Also, there were not hotels or inns where travelers could pay and stay the night. Even if there were, travelers probably could not afford to pay for every night they were gone. Because of this, travelers had to rely on the hospitality of others for shelter, food, and protection. There was, however, some payment for this hospitality in the form of a gift exchange. Another possible reason for this hospitality was the fact that there were not nations that would allow travelers to enter their territory safely. Without such hospitality, strangers could be captured or even killed for entering a foreign land. The Greek guest-friendship xenia may have been formed from this. Xenia is the Greek relationship between two people from different regions. This allowed for the members of the relationship to safely travel into the other member’s territory and receive a place to stay and something to eat. Another possible explanation for the amount of hospitality shown is that the Greeks believed the gods wanted them to show hospitality to anyone who showed up at their homes. It was also believed that turning away someone and not providing them this hospitality would result in some form of punishment from the gods. Finally, hospitality could have been used to spread ones name and bring them a sense of fame if they would provide a high standard of hospitality to strangers. It also could have been a way to show how wealthy one was. These can be shown from this quote from The Odyssey:
“Come, friend, and give me something; for you seem to be no lowly man among the Greeks, but their most noble lord-indeed a chief. So you should offer more than others can-I’d make you famous then in endless lands. I, too, was once a man of means; my house was rich; I often gave to vagabonds, whoever they might be, who came in need” (Homer, p. 351).
Is hospitality as customary now as it was in Homer’s time, and if not, why? It seems as though modern people do show hospitality towards others, but in a different way than those in Homeric times. It is not custom anymore to provide food, protection, and shelter to a stranger that arrives at someone’s door. This could be because there are hotels and restaurants almost anywhere one can go. There is no need to for someone to ask for these. Also, protection is not a large concern for most travelers, especially in the United States. Hospitality is still shown, however, in modern society. For example, when someone’s car breaks down most people would welcome them into their homes and help them in any way they can without even asking who they are. Also, most people know of someone, be it family or friend, in a different city that would welcome them and provide them with a place to stay and food, which is similar to the xenia in Homer’s time. Although the hospitality customs of Homer’s time are not still around, there are similarities to them and hospitality is still visible....