Odysseus & Polyphemus Portal: Seeking Wisdom Amanda Conley Salve Regina University Hospitality: Odysseus & Polyphemus good hospitality is an expected practice in Greek culture. The King of gods, Zeus, supports proper hospitality. “Zeus of the Strangers guards all guests and suppliants: strangers are sacred—Zeus will avenge their rights! ” (Odyssey, 9. 304-5) The encounter between Odysseus and Polyphemus, also known as “the Cyclops”, showed a great example of poor hospitality when Odysseus and his men were guests in the giant’s lair. Good hospitality and etiquette were explained well by Nestor in The Odyssey, Book 3.
It was a teaching moment between Nestor and Telemachus about the proper guest-host relationship. He taught Telemachus to respect his elders, give libations to the gods, and that guests should be fed first, questioned later, and assisted along their journey. Odysseus arrived at the land of the Cyclops, and had prepared a goatskin filled with wine to bring along. If guests were able to arrive bearing gifts, it was looked upon very well. Guests often brought gifts for trade, or as a token of gratitude for good hospitality. Polyphemus was not present when they arrived in his lair.
Odysseus’ crew had initially begged to take some goods and leave at once, but Odysseus wanted to see the man and receive his gifts. (Brann, 2002).
“The Odyssey” by Homer is one of the most recognized epics in world literature. It traces the decade-long journey of Odysseus back to Ithaca after he fought in the Trojan War. He was able to survive the dangerous ten-year voyage which he experienced and safely arrive home. Indeed, Odysseus is a truly admirable character, but what what makes him especially laudable is his physical strength, ...
They helped themselves to the giant’s cheeses, and Odysseus expected that upon the giant’s return, he could offer the wine. Polyphemus, however, does not follow the ruling of the gods. “‘Stranger,’ he grumbled back from his brutal heart, ‘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’s shield of storm and thunder, or any other blessed god— we’ve got more force by far. (Odyssey, 9. 306-11) Upon returning to his lair, Polyphemus was angry, and ate 6 of Odysseus’ men. In return for his gift of wine, Polyphemus offers to eat Odysseus last of all the men. (Homer, 1996).
Polyphemus’ “gift” was not a fair trade to the men. A proper guest/host relationship was to be very welcoming. Expected practice would begin with first offering food and drink to a guest prior to questioning who they are, and from where they travel. The host is expected to provide entertainment and dine with them as well. Polyphemus showed a very poor example of good hospitality in this aspect, as well.
Upon returning to his lair, he immediately asked the men who they were, where they came from, and accused them of being pirates. He made no offering of food or drink. Polyphemus also drank all of the wine, failing to share in the dining and entertainment of his guests. (Tracy, 1990).
He did not provide entertainment or good company to his guests. Instead, he bashed their heads and ate them for dinner. Prior to enjoying food and drink, it was expected to pray and make libations to the gods. Odysseus and his crew did this prior to helping themselves to the giant’s food, showing good hospitality and etiquette.
Polyphemus, however, voiced no fear of the gods, and enjoyed his meal (of Odysseus’ men) without making any type of offering or sacrifice. He did this immediately after learning where the men travelled from, and how they ended up on his island. After enjoying food and drink, learning about their guest and where they have travelled from, a host is expected to meet their guests’ needs and send them along their journey. This may include clothing, shoes, a bath, and even transportation. A host is also expected to respect a guest’s wishes, such as their desire to leave.
... will punish him. Polyphemus ignored the warning and was eventually outsmarted by Odysseus for his escape. Guests are expected to not take ... by the Cyclops Polyphemus and the suitors in Ithaca. When Odysseus and his men arrived in the cave of Polyphemus, they were hardly ... did Polyphemus eat some of Odysseus' men, but he also blocked the only entrance to the cave with a giant boulder. Odysseus was ...
Polyphemus provided none of these to Odysseus and his men. He killed the men and ate them. He kept them hostage in his lair with no way to escape. He would not allow them to leave at their own free will. Odysseus and his men were forced to risk their lives for freedom. (Homer, 1996).
Odysseus was not the most well behaved guest in the home of Polyphemus as well. Odysseus was dishonest (initially) about his identity. This trickery was all part of his plan for escape. He was not acting as a stranger is expected to in another’s home, because he was secretly plotting against his host.
Although it was necessary for their survival, he took advantage of the giant’s poor linguistic knowledge by giving him the name “Nobody”. The Cyclops could figure out the truth behind Odysseus’ trick name. (Brann, 2002).
He did bring a guest-gift of vintage wine in a goatskin sack, but this gift was ultimately used to obtund the giant. Polyphemus became very drunk, and Odysseus took great advantage of his altered state, and blinded him with a burning stake. This was very poor stranger etiquette, as he severely injured and disabled Polyphemus.
When he robs Polyphemus of his vision, the Cyclops’ father Poseidon is very angry. This ultimately leads to Odysseus’ punishment – a long journey home. “…let him come home late and come a broken man—all shipmates lost, alone in a stranger’s ship— and let him find a world of pain at home! ” (Odyssey, 9. 592-5) Even though Odysseus was not the ideal guest, I feel as though he did not deserve this punishment from Poseidon. Odysseus was simply protecting himself and his crew from ultimate death, and Polyphemus was disobedient to the god Zeus with the treatment of his guests.
After blinding the Cyclops, Odysseus and his crew were forced to sneak out of the giant’s home. They were not able to leave at their own free will, as a guest should be allowed. Once outside the cave, Odysseus revealed his identity to the giant, showing him just how much he had been fooled. The giant became even more enraged, and again made their departure much more difficult by hurling large boulders towards their ship. Odysseus reminded the giant of his poor hospitality, and of the laws of Zeus, god of guests and strangers. “…Your filthy crimes came down on your own head, you shameless cannibal, aring to eat your guests in your own house— so Zeus and the other gods have paid you back! ” (Odyssey, 9. 532-5) Odysseus stated here that Polyphemus received his punishment for poor hospitality in his loss of vision, which I believe was well deserved for eating his own guests. With this encounter, the Greeks could learn about the result of poor hospitality between guests and hosts. Both Polyphemus and Odysseus showed examples of poor etiquette. They learn the result of angering the god Poseidon. The Greeks also could learn of what kind of monsters exist in the world. (Brann, 2002).
In Homer's The Odyssey, many happenings interfere with Odysseus' journey to return home to his wife, Penelope, and son, Telemachus. Self-determination is a strong characteristic that Odysseus portrays in The Odyssey. The three traits that Odysseus portrays as evidence of his self-determination are: endurance, perseverance, and courage. Odysseus, like most humans, has his doubts of confidence, but ...
The encounter between Odysseus and Polyphemus was one of the most epic events in The Odyssey. Polyphemus was a terrible host because he ate his guests, held them captive, and made their departure very difficult and life threatening. Odysseus was a disrespectful guest, in that he ate the giant’s cheeses without him present, got the giant drunk, impaled him, and was dishonest about his identity, even though it was necessary for his survival. This interaction ultimately led to severe punishment on both parts, though I feel the Cyclops’ punishment was more just than Odysseus’.
This showed a great example of poor hospitality, etiquette, and guest-host relationship. There was disobedience to the gods, improper host and stranger etiquette, including gift giving, entertainment, drinking, dining, and proper departure. REFERENCES Brann, E. (2002).
Homeric Moments, Clues to Delight in Reading The Odyssey and The Iliad. Philadelphia, PA: Paul Dry Books. Homer. (1996).
The Odyssey (R. Fagles, Trans. ).
New York, NY: Penguin Books. Tracy, S. V. (1990).
The Story of the Odyssey. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.