Terms Relating to



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Terms Relating to The Odyssey

Xenia



Xenia is the Greek concept of hospitality, or generosity and courtesy shown to those who are far from home. It is often translated as "guest-friendship" (or "ritualized friendship") because the rituals of hospitality created and expressed a reciprocal relationship between guest and host.
The Greek god Zeus was sometimes referred to as Zeus Xenios, meaning he was god of, among other things, travelers. This created a particular religious obligation to be hospitable to travelers, but guests also had responsibilities, beyond reciprocating hospitality.

Overview


Xenia consists of three basic rules: The respect from host to guest, the respect from guest to host, and the parting gift from host to guest. The host must be hospitable to the guest and provide him with food and drink and a bath, if required. It is not polite to ask questions until the guest has stated his needs. The guest must be courteous to his host and not be a burden. The parting gift is to show the host's honor at receiving the guest. This was especially important in the ancient times when men thought gods mingled amongst them. If you had played host to a deity (a concept known as theoxenia) and performed poorly, you would incur the wrath of a god.

Xenia and the Trojan War


The Trojan war described in the Iliad of Homer actually resulted from a violation of xenia. Paris was a guest of Menelaus but seriously transgressed the bounds of xenia by abducting his host's wife, Helen. Therefore the Achaeans were required by duty to Zeus to avenge this transgression, which as a violation of xenia was an insult to Zeus's authority, resulting in the war.

Hubris



Hubris is a term used in modern English to indicate overweening pride, self-confidence, superciliousness, or arrogance, often resulting in fatal retribution. In ancient Greece, hubris referred to actions which, intentionally or not, shamed and humiliated the victim, and frequently the perpetrator as well. The word was also used to describe actions of those who challenged the gods or their laws, especially in Greek tragedy, resulting in the protagonist's downfall.
Hubris, though not specifically defined, was a legal term and was considered a crime in classical Athens. It was also considered the greatest sin of the ancient Greek world. That was so because it was not only proof of excessive pride, but also resulted in violent acts by or to those involved. The category of acts constituting hubris for the ancient Greeks apparently broadened from the original specific reference to mutilation of a corpse, or a humiliation of a defeated foe, or irreverent "outrageous treatment" in general.
The meaning was eventually further generalized in its modern English usage to apply to any outrageous act or exhibition of pride or disregard for basic moral laws. Such an act may be referred to as an "act of hubris", or the person committing the act may be said to be hubristic. Atē, ancient Greek for "ruin, folly, delusion," is the action performed by the hero, usually because of his/her hubris, or great pride, that leads to his/her death or downfall.

Kleos



Kleos is the Greek word often translated to "renown", or "glory". It is related to the word "to hear" and carries the implied meaning of "what others hear about you". A Greek hero earns Kleos through accomplishing great deeds, often through his own death.
Kleos is invariably transferred from father to son; the son is responsible for carrying on and building upon the "glory" of the father.

Nostos



Nostos is the Greek word for homecoming. It is a theme dealt with in many Homeric writings such as the Odyssey, in which the main character, Odysseus, strives to get home after the Trojan War. The plural term nostoi is applied to Greek heroes' homeward journeys after the taking of Troy.

Epithet

An epithet is a descriptive word or phrase accompanying or occurring in place of the name of a person or thing. It has various shades of meaning when applied to seemingly real or fictitious people, divinities, and objects. Example: “gray-eyed Athena.”



Epic Simile



Homeric simile, also called epic simile, is a detailed comparison in the form of a simile that is many lines in length. The word "Homeric" is based on the Greek author Homer, who composed the two famous Greek epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Many authors continue to use this type of simile in their writings.
The typical Homeric simile makes a comparison to some kind of event, in the form "like a __ when it does ___." The object of the comparison is usually something familiar to the audience, such as an animal or the weather.
Example: "Fear fell upon Hector as he beheld him, and he dared not stay longer where he was but fled in dismay from before the gates, while Achilles darted after him at his utmost speed. As a mountain falcon, swiftest of all birds, swoops down upon some cowering dove- the dove flies before him but the falcon with a shrill scream follows close after, resolved to have her- even so did Achilles make straight for Hector with all his might, while Hector fled under the Trojan wall as fast as his limbs could take him." - The Iliad

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