In the Greek myth Baucis and Philemon, Zeus and Hermes came to earth and traveled looking for food and a place to sleep as they went. After being turned away by many rich and poor people they finally found a poor old couple who gave them the best that they had even though they had very little. The gods were extremely pleased and made a temple of their cottage and when they died the gods rewarded the old couple by turning them to intertwined trees so they could be together forever. The Latin origin of the word hospitality is sacrifice. And this myth certainly exemplifies hospitality, exemplifying the Grecian sense of sacrifice . Myths like these were the religion and the basis of the Greek culture. The Greeks held hospitality as a highly esteemed ideal of morality, character, and civilization. Homer shows these ideals in his historical masterpiece The Odyssey.
After Athena disguises Odysseus, he goes to visit the swineherd. "He said to the man, 'I pray that Zeus and all the gods of heaven may grant you your hearts desire, for this kind welcome." To which Eumaios answers, " 'It is not my way to slight a stranger... god sends the stranger and the beggerman, we gladly give not much but all we can.' " This shows how the ancient Greek culture values hospitality as a moral ideal. Eumaios is nothing but a poor swineherd but Homer shows his great morality in the form of how he treats his guests, this enevitably shows what a good kind man Eumaos is because he is the moral ideal of hospitality.
"Helen was at her coffers, where she kept the robes she had made herself, covered with beautiful embroidery. She chose the largest out of these, which had the finest work on it, and it shone like a star." This was the robe that Helen gave to Telemachos as a final parting gift. It is meant for him to give to his wife when he marries. This shows the civilized ideal of hospitality because Helen is a well respected women. She is expected to give a large gift and be hospitalic because that is what civilized people do. Just as king Menelaos and Megapenthes, his son, choose large gift because they are civilized too. In a way Helen was also trying to make up to Telemachos because it was her who started the war Odyssey went off to fight in.
When Penelopeia apologizes to Odysseus, in his beggar form, for the rudness the suitors have showed him she demonstrated the hospitalic ideal of character. She is the ideal queen in the way she could put herself at the level of the begger and have enough character to apologize to him. In stark contrast to Penelopeia there are the suitors who are rude and uncaring and do not show the characteristic ideal what-so-ever.
In our world today hospitality might be a meal or a place to sleep with hope that we will get some credit for our kindness, but back in the world that Odysseus lived, it was a sacrifice that the host made to make the visitor happy and comfortable, wanting nothing in return. Let us remember the myth of Baucis and Philemon which was elemental to the Greek culture. That was the ideal of hospitality to the Greeks, the very origin of the word hospitality; sacrifice. It was an ideal that is reflected in many aspects of greek life concerning morality, civilization and character. And as Socrates, one of the greatest philosophers of that era, said, "What you must do is to think how you can live and help others to live most nobly and most wisely. "