Xenia (pronounced “zenee-a” and written as ξενία in Greek) is guest-friendship, the relationship between a guest and host. Because there were no hotels in ancient Greece, travelers had to rely on the generosity of the people who lived in the area through which they were traveling. A traveler could knock on any door and he would immediately be invited in, at least in theory. Xenia is protected by Zeus and has specific rules of conduct. The host should accept any traveler who comes by and offer him a bath and a meal without asking for the person’s name. After the guest has eaten, the host may ask the traveler’s name and place of origin. The guest has a responsibility to treat his host’s house and possessions with respect as well as to provide his name and background when asked. When the guest is taking his leave of his host, the two will exchange gifts as tokens of their newfound friendship. Once a xenia relationship has been established between two families, it can last for generations, providing both families with a place to sleep on future journeys.



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Mythology Unbound: An Online Textbook for Classical Mythology Copyright © by Jessica Mellenthin and Susan O. Shapiro is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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