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Section 9G
1/13/12

Those Darned Suitors


Throughout The Odyssey, the suitors spurn and mock the gods. This of
course leads to their ultimate demise, but what is it that leads to their
untimely deaths? It is their absence of good host-guest relationships, or
xenia, kindness, or arte, and fear of the gods, or time. They steal Odysseus
food and possessions, and court Odysseus wife. The suitors disregard for
standard Greek customs is what makes them the fundamentally evil
antagonists in The Odyssey; therefore. It is only fitting that Odysseus, the
man the offenses were made against, smites them down almost singlehandedly.
The suitors also ironically seem to believe that the gods will favor them
and give them luck, even after such open irreverence for the gods. As
Agelaus, one of the more corrupt and malicious suitors, says: If Zeus is
willing, we may hit Odysseus, / carry off the glory! (22.265-66). Even as
they see in their own eyes that they will soon be done away with, the suitors
continue to be so ignorant so that they feel like they should be protected by
the gods. However, just before Agelaus hopes out loud that for the gods to

help him, he spurns the words of the goddess, Athena, in the form of Mentor:
Mentor has mouthed some empty boasts and flitted off/ just

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four are left to fight at their front doors. (22.261-62). They still believe that
the gods favor them no matter what, however they have not expressed time,
and therefore they will get their dues. The suitors just do not have the metis
to see that Mentor is a god in disguise, and yet they still attack on and on.
Return to thesisconnect these points together
The suitors lack one of the most important values in ancient Greek
culture: xenia. The suitors here nearly directly contrast with the lowly
servants in The Odyssey. The swineherd and cowherd, Eumaeus and
Philoteus respectively, obey the guidelines of xenia, and welcome and feed
and guests, even if they are as dirty and suspicious-looking as Odysseus.
They do this because they know that when one receives a traveler in their
home, it is perfectly likely that the said traveler is a god. If they are bad
hosts to a god, their lives will end sooner, and much more painfully. That is
why they are good hosts. However, the suitors like to do the opposite. They
tend to disrespect whomever they like, and take the consequences, as they
did with Odysseus. The suitors disrespect Odysseus, as he comes in to his
own house, and joke about his guest gift: grabbing an oxhoof out of a
basket where it lay, / with a brawny hand he flung it straight at the king

(20.330, 334-35). In an open act of mockery, Ctesippus further proves the


suitors evil, and contradicts xenia. As the suitors are bad hosts, the xenia of
the suitors gets worse and worse, prompting Odysseus and Athena to react
rather violently. The suitors finally see that good xenia should be respected
and used, but it is too late, and they now face the music. As a suitor
ironically says in Book 2: The princes wealth will be devoured as always, /
mercilesslyno reparations, ever not while the queen drags out our hopes
to wed her the suitors will
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continue to take Telemachus inheritance until Penelope stops dragging out
the courtship, however it ends differently than they thought it would. (2.22527). Incongruously, Eumaeus and Philoteus are the ones who gain riches,
from helping and remaining loyal to Odysseus, and from their good xenia
towards Odysseus, unlike the suitors, who do not respect Odysseus, and
subsequently bite the dust.
Arte is the other value that the suitors lack. As they gorge on
Odysseus food, Telemachus attempts to get them to leave and in due course
fails. However, instead of considering leaving the estate or even being polite
and humane, the suitors continually disrespect and mock Telemachus, even
planning to kill him. They also do the same for Mentor, the human disguise of
Athena, mocking and condescending him, saying he should Go home and
babble [his] omens to [his] children/ save them from some catastrophe

coming soon. (2.200-01). Their deep-seated malice negates any good arte,
and makes Odysseus, Telemachus, and the rest of the heroes further good
Greek citizens in comparison, serving the rhapsodes purpose. Those darn
suitors.

Works Cited
Homer. The Odyssey. New York: Penguin Classics, 1996.