How the Ancient Preoccupations Can Help Us Understand Our Current Ideological Situations

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1153 Words
Date:  2022-09-25


The Odyssey is an epic poem with three main themes; hospitality, loyalty, and vengeance. However, the author gives significant prominence and credence to the theme of hospitality. The poem is premised in the context of ancient Greece where hospitality was a highly regarded practice with a lot of value and meaning attached to it. The relationship between a host and his guest went beyond usual pleasantries and even had a name to it; Xenia. The guest was seen as a person who brought news and good tidings from the outside world while the host was expected to be hospitable and provide things such as food, shelter and sometimes even money (Samanani 242). Both the guest and host would then exchange gifts. At times the guest would be a total stranger. It was also an unspoken expectation that the guest would return the favor extended to him, as at when he got guests himself and had to play host.

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The idea of hospitality is evidenced through Odyssey's voyage from one city to another where he is welcomed by the various kings in the characteristic Greek custom as well as at his home in Ithaca. Hospitality was not only a custom but also had a religious meaning, in that there was a god of hospitality called Zeus who the Greeks sought to please by being hospitable (Samanani 243). The main drivers of the hospitality tradition among the Greeks were mainly cultural and religion-oriented and effectively set the stage for the modern-day concept of hospitality as explained below.

The Greeks believed that a guest or traveler, albeit being a stranger, was on a mission and therefore whenever he knocked at one's door, he was not being a nuisance but needed to be welcomed warmly with food, a comfortable place to put up, a friendly conversation and any other provisions that he might need. A lot of importance was attached to treating the guests well. The Greek notion of hospitality was anchored on certain rituals and expressions of a genuine relationship between the host and the guest (Lashley 2). Cordial Gestures such as courtesy, generosity, respect, and warmth defined the guest- host relationship.

The relationship was deemed a ritual, governed by a set of rules of behaviors around respect, guidance, and protection whose violation was an abomination. Among the most reveled were a genuine demonstration of honor at the guest by his host while receiving and welcoming him, mutual respect between the host and the guest. Hospitality was defined as the process of making equal the guest/stranger and the host, making the guest to feel safe and protected as well as offering pleasantries at the end of his visit such as guidance to his next destination (Lashley 2). The Greeks preoccupation with hospitality was deeply rooted in their tradition and a breach of the cultural norms and rules was believed to have serious ramifications on the perpetrators. Hospitality was deemed to be a right with the host expected to ensure that the needs of his guest were met. Effectively, a person's ability to comply with the laws of hospitability defined his dignity and social standing.

Modern-day ideologies on hospitality borrow heavily from the ancient Greek traditions. Common decency still dictates that a guest should be treated hospitably by his host (Lashley 3). It is considered rude to turn away guests; instead, they should be received with goodwill and respect and made to feel comfortable. Treating guests in a cold or disrespectful manner is frowned upon. However, due to emerging security concerns and dwindling mutual trust, modern society has not embraced the welcoming of strangers into personal spaces. Strangers are still treated at an arm's length and on formal tones and are generally not welcome into people's private homes. Moreover, hospitality is defined in terms of an individual's choices and preferences as guided by acceptable societal norms but is not legislated through rules and regulations (Schrift 1). In the modern-day era, it has become increasingly difficult to legislate morality. For example, an individual is not under any obligation to welcome a stranger into their home but may choose to do so at their discretion. Hence, hospitality to strangers is only extended in businesses who perceive the stranger as a customer such as in hotels.

The Role of Religion

The Greeks valued their gods and would not do anything that would displease them. Religion was the foundation of their value systems, beliefs and their day to day occupations. It was the underbelly upon which all other beliefs were anchored. The fear of the gods surpassed the need for common decency in influencing the Greeks attitudes towards guests (Samanani 242). The Greek societal rules, norms, customs and expectations that defined their culture were enforced through their religion. There were power and influence associated with the gods as well as the threat of a punishment in the event that the cultural norms were breached. This was effective in ensuring strict compliance. Religious undertones defined behavior towards guests as the ideology of the probability of the guest or beggar knocking at one's door could be a god or goddess passing by to issue judgment was prevalent. There was wide belief that the gods always disguised themselves as beggars, hence the Greeks treated all guests well regardless of their perceived social status.

The modern-day concept of hospitality is overtly similar to that of the Greeks in that it is laden with religious connotations that shape how people treat others. The majority of people have religious affiliations that collectively overemphasize the virtue of treating our neighbors well. There is also a direct association of strangers and guests to the deities. For example, in Christianity, hospitality is a virtue and the need to offer help and sympathy to strangers and to welcome visitors is endorsed. The Bible, for example, refers to acts of humility and care towards strangers in instances where Jesus washed his disciples' feet as an act of service and humility. Jesus also says that whoever welcomes a stranger had welcomed him (Jesus), and whoever has fed and clothed a stranger has done the same to Jesus (Heffernan 44). In compliance with the Bible, this concept has been widely embraced in extending hospitality to vulnerable people such as refugees and immigrants.


Overall, there are numerous ancient concepts that the modern world has embraced in regards to hospitality and good treatment of guests. Hospitality is a noble practice that should be fully taken up and extended not only in formal setups such as to guests in a hotel, airplane or business premises but also in private homes.

Works Cited

Heffernan, James A. "Biblical Hospitality." Hospitality and Treachery in Western Literature, 2014, pp. 41-80.

Lashley, Conrad. "Hospitality and hospitableness." Research in Hospitality Management 5.1 (2015): 1-7.

Samanani, Farhan. "Introduction to Special Issue: Cities of Refuge and Cities of Strangers: Care and Hospitality in the City." City & Society 29.2 (2017): 242-259.

Schrift, Alan D. The logic of the gift: Toward an ethic of generosity. Routledge, 2014.

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How the Ancient Preoccupations Can Help Us Understand Our Current Ideological Situations. (2022, Sep 25). Retrieved from

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