The Odyssey Report


In The Odyssey , Homer uses guest-host relationships as an ethical norm
against which behavior is measured. When the ritual is preformed correctly by
guest-host, good results ensue. In contrast, the violations of this ethical
norm results in misfortune. This idea was taken very seriously by people of
that time and it can be found throughout the story.
A great example of a guest host relationship where both the guest and
the host behave properly is the relationship between Telemachos and King
Menelaos. As a guest Telemachos treats his host with respect and dignity. He
address menelaos as "my lord" to give reverence to his kindness and to be polite.
Telemachos is very complimentary to his host by saying "Zeus must have such a
place" when referring to menelaos\' house. He does this to let him know that he
will be a good guest and that he is a proper gentleman. Menelaos shows that he
to can be a good host and gives Telemachos food and shelter even when there is a
wedding going on. He says "go and take out their horses, and bring the men in
to share our feast". This shows that menelaos must be a good guest especially to
give them shelter during a wedding. Menelaos also does not pressure Telemachos
into answering any questions before he eats and enjoys the festivities; nor does
he give any indication that he wants Telemachos to leave. He says "stay here in
my mansion for ten or twelve days and then I will give you a good send off and a
handsome gift, three horses and a chariot: I will give you a fine chalice too,
that when you pour your drop to the immortal gods you may think of me all your
days". This statement shows that not only does he wish Telemachos to stay but
that he is a very generous man indeed. Due to kindness of both men good things
are bound to ensue. For Telemachos the good outcome he receives is the accurate
news of his fathers whereabouts. For Menelaos the good outcome is that whenever
he may need help Telemachos is always there for him.
Another example in which there is a good host and a good guest is the
relationship between Odysseus and Eumaios, the swine herd. Despite Odysseus\'
appearance as a beggar, since he is in disguise, Eumaios treats him with the
same respect as he would any person. He takes him into his home and tells him
to "eat away" and to enjoy himself. Also Eumaios "laid a bed for him near the
fire, a heap of sheepskins, and their Odysseus lay down". This is a good
indication that the swineherd is a good host. Odysseus returns this kindness by
saying "I pray Zeus may bless you as I do, for the honour you have done" as a
way to show his thankfulness and his gratitude. He also shares his stories of
the past as a way to amuse his host. Odysseus continues by regarding Eumaios as
"my friend" as a way to let him know he is very appreciative. When Telemachos
enters Odysseus, the beggar, offers his seat at the table, but Telemachos being
the good guest that he is refuses the seat. Thus Telemachos can be considered
again as another good guest. Their rewards are that Odysseus finds out about the
suitors and that Eumaios is a faithful person to him. Odysseus also gains a
warrior in the battle against the suitors. Eumaios\' reward is that his life is
spared by Odysseus. Odysseus also says "I will find wives for both of you, and
give you land and well built houses close to myself; and you shall be friends
and brothers of my son Telemachos". This is a great honor especially for a
swineherd. Finally, even Telemachos is rewarded for his kindness; he is made
aware of the beggar\'s true identity as being his father and their conquer over
the suitors.
However not all guest-host relationships are ones in which the guest and
the host act properly. For instance, the relationship between Odysseus and
Polyphemos, the cyclops. When Odysseus first arrives at the cave of Polyphemos
it says he "walked briskly to the cave, but found him not at home...so we
entered". This action is not a good way to be a guest because he comes in
uninvited. He even goes a little further he says "we lit a fire and...helped
ourselves to as many cheeses as we wanted to eat". This is another way he is a
bad guest because he takes