The Wine Red Sea:  Journeys of Odysseus
© Copyright 2014 - 2018 by Peter J Ponzio

The Goddess and the Prince, Book I

The first four books of the Odyssey are about Telemachus, the son of Odysseus.  Athena, disguised as Mentes, visits Telemachus on Ithaca.  Telemachus greets Athena in the words, almost a formula, used to greet all strangers: Pausing beside here there, he clasped her right hand and relieving her at once of her long bronze spear, met her with winged words: 'Greetings stranger! Here in our house you'll find a royal welcome. Have supper first, then tell us what you need.' (1, 142-6) To the sea-faring Greeks of Homer's time, courtesy to strangers was important.  By establishing friend-ties, the Greeks were able form mercantile connections around the Mediterranean, and travel somewhat more safely. These friendship ties formed an almost familial bond, and bond that was sacred, even in times of war. In the Iliad, we see Diomedes and Glaucus exchange armor after discovering their friend-kinship. The formula to greet strangers is a key concept in the Odyssey, and is composed of the following steps: o An inquiry of the country of the guest o An inquiry about the city of the guest o A discussion of the heritage of the guest o A description of the vessel on which the guest arrived o The reason for the guest's journey After answering the questions, guests were supplied with water to wash their hands and then were given food, which they shared with their hosts.  Athena answers Telemachus' questions, and asks him about his father: But come, please, tell me about yourself now, point by point. You're really Odysseus' son? You've sprung up so! Uncanny resemblance. . . the head, and the fine eyes- I see him now. How often we used to meet in the old days before he embarked for Troy, where other Argive captains, all the best men, sailed in the long curved ships. From then to this very day I've not set eyes on Odysseus or he on me. (I, 238 - 246)
Greek Sailing Ship