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The Odyssey

The Odyssey

by Homer

Tradition and Custom Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #16

(Odysseus:) ‘I had with me a goatskin bottle of black wine, sweet wine, given me by Maron, son of Euanthes and priest of Apollo, who bestrides Ismaros; he gave it because, respecting him with his wife and child, we saved them from harm. He made his dwelling among the trees of the sacred grove of Phoibos Apollo, and he gave me glorious presents. He gave me seven talents of well-wrought gold, and he gave me a mixing-bowl made all of silver, and gave along with it wine, drawing it off in storing jars, twelve in all. This was a sweet wine, unmixed, a divine drink.’ (9.196-205)

Odysseus reminds us that there is an exchange between host and guest: the guest must show kindness and good behavior, and the host returns the courtesy. This is why the suitors are not entitled to the hospitality of Telemachos and his mother.

Quote #17

‘From the start my companions spoke to me and begged me to take some of the cheeses, come back again, and the next time to drive the lambs and kids from their pens, and get back quickly to the ship again, and go sailing off across the salt water; but I would not listen to them, it would have been better their way, not until I could see him, see if he would give me presents. My friends were to find the sight of him in no way lovely.’ (9.224-230)

Odysseus faults his own logic here; he was operating on the assumption that whoever inhabited the cave would follow the traditional rules of hospitality. Of course, that wasn’t the case here.

Quote #18

(Polyphemos, in Odysseus’s tale:) ‘“Stranger, you are a simple fool, or come from far off, when you tell me to avoid the wrath of the gods or fear them. The Cyclopes do not concern themselves over Zeus of the aegis, nor any of the rest of the blessed gods, since we are far better than they […].”’ (9.273-287)

The punishment that Polyphemos ultimately suffers is justified by his refusal here to play by the rules. On the other hand, you could argue if Polyphemos and his people have chosen to live outside of Zeus’s rules, why should they be forced to comply with them? This would be like traveling to another country and chastising them for not celebrating the Fourth of July. Again, the counter-argument would be that Zeus, as the King of the Gods, rules everything and everyone without question. What do you think?

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