How the Ancients are to Blame for Having to Host your Crazy Aunt Edna

            The doorbell rings and your relatives or friends arrive with the understanding they will be welcomed with open arms. Our current world though does not necessitate the need to host anyone, we simply do this out of courtesy and tradition. Today we can politely decline because we know that our visitors have options.  In the ancient world, however, this was not the case. There was no Hilton Hotel or AirBNB, rather, if you were fortunate to have the means and opportunity to travel, you were beholden to the kindness of strangers.

We welcome guests to our home.

            The poet Homer highlighted the Greeks deep trust and reliance on hospitality, or as it was known Xenia, in his book The Odyssey. For the Greeks, Xenia was the unwritten sacred law of the land that allowed for secure travel throughout the ancient world. Throughout the story, Homer highlights the challenges Odysseus faced as the reality that life outside of the Greek shoreline was filled with strangers and strange customs and was not always so hospitable. Perhaps you have heard the story of the cyclops or the Lotus eaters. The movie Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief. The story is loosely based on Homer’s novel. Rick Riordan, the books author, drew inspiration from the many stories he knew. As a teacher, Riordan had taught Greek myths and at the request of his oldest son, created a new story using the ancient characters. And so, a new series and hero was born. You can learn more about Riordan and his books at the following link: http://rickriordan.com/about/frequently-asked-questions/

The “hospitality” at the Lotus Casino

            At the heart of Greek hospitality was the tradition of swapping news for a meal and a place to eat. Obviously, long before the days of Snapchat or even the post office, news of life in other parts of the Mediterranean was limited. Travelers repaid their debt with the news of their homeland as well as any other lands they had visited prior to their arrival. The debt often included great stories of triumph and defeat in battle. Much like watching your Aunt Edna’s slide show of her trip to Greece.

The Parthenon in Greece

            Today, through the concept of AirBNB or Uber, we open our homes and cars to total strangers or we arrive ready to enter. Like Greece 2000 years ago, the world is made of varied peoples.  For Homer, it was the non-Greeks that commanded his interest. For Americans, it could be interactions with foreigners at home and abroad that illustrate our perceptions of people and true hospitality. The Xenia one offers and receives will still vary from place-to-place and there are dangerous places. The good news, however, is that the world has evolved from the time of Homer. Rest assure, the odds of being eaten are slim.

The Odyssey on The Simpsons