Xenia (Greek ξενία, xenía) is the Greek concept of hospitality and guest-host relations.
While the term Xenia is primarily ancient Greek, even today the Greek people are noted for their hospitality. The Greek god Zeus was sometimes referred to as Zeus Xenios meaning he was god of, among other things, travellers. This created a particular religious obligation to be hospitable to travellers, but guests also had responsibilities, beyond reciprocating hospitiality.
It should be noted that the Trojan war described in the Iliad of Homer actually resulted from a violation of xenia. Paris was a guest of Menelaus but seriously trangressed the bounds of xenia by abducting his host's wife, Helen. Therefore the Achaeans were required by duty to Zeus to avenge this transgression (which as a violation of xenia was an insult to Zeus's authority) resulting in the war.
Xenia consists of three basic rules. The respect from host to guest, the respect from guest to host, and the parting gift from host to guest. The host must be hospitable to the guest and provide him with food and drink. It is not polite to ask questions until the guest has sated his desire. The guest must be courteous to his host and not be a burden. The parting gift is to show the host's honor at receiving the guest. This was especially important in the ancient times when men thought gods mingled amongst them. If you had played host to a deity (a concept known as theoxenia), and performed poorly, you would incur the wrath of a god. For example in Ovid's Metamorphoses, Mercury and Jupiter are travelling and are turned away by all but Baucis; or in the Odyssey Antinous insults Odysseus who is disguised as a beggar, but is rebuked by the other suitors because 'he could be a god' and therefore mistreating him might result in a serious rebuke.
xenos is a word used in ancient Greek from Homer onwards that means both foreigner (in the sense of a person from another Greek state) and such a person brought into a relationship of long distance friendship.
Sometimes it can be translated as "stranger" and at other times "friend" A common scholarly translation in the latter case is "guest-friend", used to distinguished it from the word philos which refers to local friends and to relatives.
The relationship between such guest-friends was known as xenia. It entails the exchange of hospitality and duty to look after each other when visiting the other's community. It is a way of extending protection to an outsider by making him a kind of member-by-proxy of the community he is visiting.
It can also be used simply to assert that someone (who perhaps claims to be) is not a member of your community, i.e. simply foreigner and with no implication of reciprocity or relationship.
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