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Xenia a Divine InvocationCLA236

Xenia a Divine InvocationCLA236

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Published by Elizabeth Adekur

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Published by: Elizabeth Adekur on Nov 19, 2012
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12/04/2012

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Xenia: A Divine Invocation
Topic 1
Ronik Mylod 997700484CLA236H1FProf: Johnathan TracyTA: Sarah McCallum10/29/2012
 
 
Mylod, R. - 997700484Page
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In ancient Greek society, the Olympian gods, especially Zeus, were seen to befundamentally moral and fiercely protected justice. In the Greek epic
The Odyssey
by Homer,
the belief and adherence to the codes of conduct as passed down by the gods are a keyaspect of civilized ancient societies, and those who fail to observe them are punished by theinescapable reality of the moral gods who govern the universe. The practice of xenia, of hosting and guest-friendship is a custom which unambiguously compels strangers tobecome friends, lest they disobey and incur the wrath of Zeus, who protects suchrelationships.
Throughout the poem, characters are given a chance either to follow or todisregard this institution, and so must face the consequences of these decisions. Cyclops
Polyphemus and Odysseus‟
swineherd Eumaeus both have an opportunity to host Odysseus, andthe contrast between their actions indicates their respective levels of cultural sophistication andto what degree they are civilized.
Odysseus’
visit to the land of the Cyclopes and his encounter with Polyphemus areperfect examples of the alterity between Odysseus as a civilized Greek and Polyphemus as asub-human monster.
At first, Odysseus decides his ship will investigate the peoples livingthere,
and asks “What
are
they-violent, savage, lawless? Or friendly to strangers, god-fearing
men?” (
 
IX
, 195-96), knowing he can count on hospitality if the natives are a cultured people.
Once in the cave of Polyphemus, Odysseus‟ crew begs him to steal some of the monster‟s
cheeses and goats, but Odysseus
“would not give way
- and how much better it would have been-
not til I saw him, saw what gifts he‟s give,”
(
IX
 ,
256-59) since he is entitled by the rights of eliteguests, protected by Zeus, to ask for protection and generosity from a powerful being likePolyphemus. As alluded to, Odysseus will come to regret this decision.
 
Mylod, R. - 997700484Page
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When Polyphemus returns from his chores and sees the crew, Odysseus says
“… we‟re at
your knees in hopes of a welcome, even a guest-
gift, the sort that hosts give strangers. That‟s thecustom, Respect the gods, my friend. We‟re
suppliants- at your mercy! Zeus of the strangersguards all guests and suppliants: strangers are sacred-
Zeus will avenge their rights!”
(
IX
, 300-05).
Odysseus invokes Zeus‟ protection, as a god of morality, whose primary concern is the
proper administration of justice in the human sphere, especially concerning elite visitors andtheir hosts. Improper observation of these practices, the Cyclops is warned, is impious and willbe punished.
Polyphemus responds, completely refusing this duty “ Stranger‟…‟you must be a
fool, stranger, or come from nowhere, telling
me
to fear the gods, or avoid their wrath! We
Cyclops never blink at Zeus and Zeus‟ shield o
f storm and thunder or any other blessed god-
…I‟d never spare you in fear of Zeus‟ hatred” (
IX
, 306-12), indicating he is unafraid of Zeus,immoral and uncivilized.
 Next, Polyphemus does the unthinkable, “Lurching up, he lunged out with his hands
towards my men and snatching two at once, rapping them on the ground he knocked them deadlike pups- their brains gushed out all over, soaked the floor- and ripping them limb from limb to
fix his meal he bolted them down…” (
IX
, 323-29), also doing the same at 348, and 384, eating 6of his guests.
First murder, then cannibalism, the Cyclops commits a terrible crime againsthumanity, and he violates the code of Xenia, and will be punished by Zeus.
Odysseus ishorrified but begins planning revenge, first by getting Polyphemus drunk. He asks Odysseus
“And tell me your name now, quickly, so I can hand my guest a gift to warm
his
 
heart,” (
IX
,400-
01), to which Odysseus replies “I will tell you. But you must give me a guest
-
gift as you‟ve
promised. Nobody-
that‟s
 
my name” (
IX,
409-10),
highlighting the importance of justice, asOdysseus desires something to which he is entitled to by Greek cultural practice
.

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