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In the Odyssey, eating is a metaphor for a variety of personality characteristics. Food in the world of the Odyssey has symbolic significance in addition to being necessary for survival because men are continuously eating and because there are many civilized feasts that are portrayed as expressions of hospitality. They facilitate the development of a bond between the host and the visitor and offer enjoyable welcoming rituals, such as sacrifices in homage to the gods. (Dougherty 13). The feasts in Odyssey introduce more unusual eating styles and serve as a focal point for conflict and moral decay, despite the fact that they are intended to be a unifying festival. In spite of the unifying quality of the civilized feasts, the act of eating can also be associated with conflict and decline in moral values. This conflict frequently manifests itself as the lack of ability by man to take control over his desires. For instance, the honey sweet fruit of lotus shows the surrender of the sailors to their desire of eating the fruit. In addition, the sweet fruit presents food as a psychological charm since the sailors are not willing to leave but rather wish to stay there with the lotus eating people. They want to feed on the lotus plant and stop thinking about the journey to their homes. The sailors begin weeping when Odysseus seizes them by force to the place where the ships are anchored (Homer 13). This weeping highlights the beguiling eminence of the lotus fruit such that the irresistible craving of the food influences the deeds of the sailors. Also, the sailors' lack of self control is evident when they kill Helios' cattle in spite of the explicit caution by Odysseus (Homer 15). On the other hand, the slaughter of the cattle by the sailors may possibly be perceived to be indispensable unlike with the case of the lotus plant. They find themselves in a state of despair as their stomachs are exhausted with hunger. Since they cannot withstand hunger, it is essential to slaughter the cattle belonging to Helios for their survival. Nonetheless, their inability to refuse to give in to hunger makes them suffer grave consequences. They eventually drown as the Zeus attack and tear their ship into pieces. So food consumption is associated with critical matters of survival as well as the theme of immoral degeneracy. This case warns of the development of the bigger conflict that comes to pass from the suitors feasting in the house of Odysseus.
Excessive eating depicts lack of self-control and moral degeneracy in Odyssey Organizing and holding feasts for guests is a form of hospitality but hunger and eating food are viewed negatively. They lead to indiscipline and are considered as submission to temptation such as in the case of the suitors who are constantly eating. They slaughter the livestock in the palace and Odysseus kills the suitors as they eat dinner (Homer 19). The suitors on Ithaca disrespect the Zeu's hospitality law thus behave immorally. They court Odysseus wife, Penelope tempting her faithfulness to her husband. In this case, they do not act in accordance with the provisions of the law of the land. Mortal weakness is also depicted when Odysseus and his men yield to hunger and eat the Sun's flock and the lotus fruit. The hunger that Odysseus feels for keos is considered as a great temptation since he reveals his name to Polyphemus. The monstrosity in the work is depicted in the manner in which eating is considered as immoral. For instance, the Cyclops are human eaters and the queen of Laetrygonians attempts to eat Odysseus and his men. In odyssey, food is important for survival and people should be welcome and fed especially during their journeys although constant feasting leads to immoral behavior in many instances. To some, eating is a form of generosity such that every kindness culminates in a meal although conflicts arise later. For instance the feast of the cattle results in the destruction of the remaining crew (Homer 22). In addition, the suitors discredit the household of the Odysseus by courting his wife while feasting. While various people show honorr by offering Odysseus food and wine, the suitors have another motive of wanting the wife of Odysseus yet they know that she is somebody's wife. The tedious human cycle of ingestion and excretion is conceived to be a symbol of the vicissitudes of the mortal world.
On the other hand, feasting in odyssey also represent a kind of heroic attitude towards life so that the odyssey heroes are able to live their lives to the fullest. Food serves as a way to illustrate an understanding and respect of the rules. All the way through the epic, feasting provides an enjoyable and welcoming environment for storytelling and further celebratory procedures. Besides, the sharing of the foods and the drinks at the communal high feast establishes a warm affiliation between the hosts and the guests thus giving the latter a feeling of relieve in their surroundings (Homer 21). In addition, the feasting lays emphasis on the friendship formed between the host and the guest as well as bringing them together. This enhances the establishment of a pleasant atmosphere for the consequent exchange of tales and talents. The welcoming of Odysseus by the hosts represents their kindness prior to the sharing of stories and the holding of different athletics contest. While the civilized feasts endeavour to bring together the guests and the hosts, they also incorporate sacrifices, which are meant to honorr the gods. They bring together the mortal and the divine kingdom as a whole. The sacrifice of food and drink offered by Nester is meant to honor the goddess Athene and as well show his strong wish for respect (Homer 26). In addition, it is intended to set up a relationship among the mortal and the heavenly sphere. The sacrifice of food and drink that is offered to the gods in their honor is to highlight the inherent control the gods have over the mortals. These mortals are able to manipulate them through the provisions along with creating a dynamic relationship between humans and the gods.
2. The moral degeneracy and eating depicted in odyssey goes against the orderliness or the cosmos of the poem. In classical literature Odysseus is depicted in various ways such as being a hero although moral issues emerge that contradict the cosmos. The universe is ordered such that harmony is maintained among humans, creatures, and other heavenly bodies. Gluttony is immoral and may lead to loss of life and other forms of chaos in the society (Homer 67). The theme of eating and moral degeneracy contravenes the rules of moral cosmos of the poem since it goes against the moral standards of any organized society.
3. The theme relate to the customs of Xenia during the Greek archaic period, which defined concepts of hospitality, generosity, and courtesy by guests and hosts. Xenia refers to the guest-friend relationship in which travelers depended greatly on hospitality of other individuals for shelter, protection, and food. However, gluttony contradicts Xenia since hospitality does not guarantee the visitors permission to eat something without owner's permission. Moral degeneracy and eating in Odyssey contravenes the rules of hospitality during Homer's time as well as during the late archaic period (Home 70). In the context of the aristocratic ideals surrounding the custom of Xenia the eating behavior and moral decline in odyssey contradicts the rules of generosity and hospitality in Ancient Greek.
Homer. The odyssey. Vol. 28. Collector's Library, 2011.
Homer. Homer, the Odyssey. W. Heinemann, 1919.
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