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7. Xenia

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In this module, we think about the theme of ‘xenia’ in the Odyssey, focusing in particular on: (i) what ‘xenia’ is, i.e. a formal code of practice that outlines how heroes should treat one another in a particular situation; (ii) the link in Homeric ethics between how much one owns (i.e. the size of one’s ‘oikos’) and one’s moral worth, and how we might understand the crime of the Suitors in these terms, i.e. their draining of Odysseus’ ‘oikos’; (iii) the examples of proper ‘xenia’ that we encounter through the Odyssey, e.g. Telemachus with Nestor and Menelaus, Odysseus with the Phaeacians; (iv) Odysseus’ own violation of ‘xenia’ when he enters the Cyclops’ cave uninvited in Book 9; and (v) the extent to which the Odyssey explores the limits of the equation between wealth and moral goodness, especially in the characters of the Suitors.


In this course, Dr Emily Hauser (University of Exeter) provides a comprehensive introduction to Homer. In the first module, we think about the Iliad and Odyssey as ‘oral poems’ and consider this should impact how we read them. The following four modules (2-5) focus in the Iliad, with discussions of: (i) the narrative structure of the poem; (ii) the role of the gods; (iii) the nature of heroism; and (iv) the presentation of war and warfare. The five modules after that (6-10) focus on the Odyssey, with discussions of: (i) the theme of ‘nostos’; (ii) the theme of ‘xenia’; (iii) the nature of heroism; (iv) the role of women; and (v) the related themes of disguise and recognition. Finally, in the eleventh model, we think about the reception of Homer from antiquity to the twenty-first century, and how – if at all – it is possible to escape ‘the shadow of Homer’.

Note: Translations from the Iliad are taken from Martin Hammond (Penguin Classics, 1987) and those from the Odyssey from E. V. Rieu (Penguin Classics, 1946), unless otherwise noted.


Dr Emily Hauser is a Lecturer in the Department of Classics at the University of Exeter. Her research centres on the intersection between gender and poetics in the ancient world, with a particular focus on authorship and gender in antiquity, women in Homeric epic and classical reception in contemporary women's writing. Her recent publications include (as co-editor) Reading Poetry, Writing Genre English Poetry and Literary Criticism in Dialogue with Classical Scholarship. (2018).

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Hauser, E. (2020, September 10). Homer - Xenia [Video]. MASSOLIT.

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Hauser, E. "Homer – Xenia." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 10 Sep 2020,

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