What do we learn about the rules of supplication and xenia in the Odyssey and the consequences of disobeying them?

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Margarita Myskovets23.09.12
What do we learn about the rules of Supplication and
Xenia from Homer's Odyssey and the consequences of
disobeying them?
Following the proper rules of supplication and xenia was vital in the civilized society
of ancient Greece. Through his works Homer teaches many lessons about what is
correct and what isn't when trying to follow the rules of supplication and xenia, and
both people in ancient Greece people in modern day times can learn from the
examples of supplication and xenia that homer gives in his books.
Book 5 of Homer's Odyssey gives us a very good example of xenia- the concept of
hospitality. We get a very detailed account of how Circe applies the rules of xenia
properly when welcoming Hermes into her home. ` The divine Calypso seated Hermes
on a brightly polished chair, and asked him: "Hermes of the golden wand, what brings
you here? You are an honored and welcomed guest, though in the past your visits
have been few . . . But first follow me inside and let me offer you hospitality."' We can
see that Calypso speaks gently to Hermes and with respect in order not to offend her
guest, which was very important in the ancient world and even now. From past
knowledge we know that it was proper not to ask questions of your guest but instead
welcome him into the house. Here Calypso does not fully follow that rule and starts off
talking to Hermes by asking a question. This tells us that the rules of xenia can be
flexible and the reason behind Calypso's questions is surprise as she did not expect a
visit from Hermes and is purely curious about the reason behind it. Although Calypso
starts off by asking a question she does not enforce an answer to it and in fact tells
Hermes to answer it later as first she is obliged to show her hospitality. `The goddess
now put some ambrosia on a table drew it to his side, and mixed a cup of red nectar.
The Messenger, the giant killer, began to eat an drink, and when he dined and
refreshed himself, he answered Calypso's questions.' This shows us that although
Calypso asked questions she was aware of the proper rules of xenia like any civilized
person should and knows that first you must tend to your guest and then question
The perfect following of the rules of supplication and xenia are shown in Book 6 of
Homer's Odyssey. Odysseus has washed up on the shores of Phaeacia, naked and barely
alive, he stumbles upon the daughter of king Alcinous, Nausicaa, who has bravely
stood up to him and had not ran away like the other girls with her. At this point
`Odysseus considered whether he should throw his arm around the beautiful girl's
knees and beg for help, or just keep his distance and beg her with all courtesy to give
him clothing and direct him to the city.' Through Odysseus' thoughts we learn that in
order to supplicate you must throw your arms around the persons legs and beg for
help. This is the polite and civilized gesture. Through Odysseus' actions we also learn
that you must consider the person and their feelings before you jump into actions `he
decided that the lady might take offence if he embraced her knees it would be better
to keep his distance and courteously plead his case.' We know Odysseus to be a

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Margarita Myskovets23.09.12
thoughtful and courteous character at times and so the assumption can be made that
he did the correct thing when he did not hug the young girl's knees. From this we
learn that similarly to xenia the rules of supplication are very flexible.…read more

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Margarita Myskovets23.09.12
Zeus is the champion of suppliants and guests... guests are sacred to him, and he goes
alongside them" the fear of disobeying Zeus would have made any sane man consider
his actions twice but the `cruel brute' `cares nothing for Zeus with his aegis'. The
Cyclops completely goes against all rules of xenia and is extremely rude to his guests
and then even eats some of them, this is obviously not hospitable behavior.…read more


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