‘Strangers are from Zeus’: Homeric <i>Xenia</i> at the Courts of Proteus and Croesus

Elizabeth Vandiver

in Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199693979
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191745324 | DOI:
‘Strangers are from Zeus’: Homeric Xenia at the Courts of Proteus and Croesus

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This chapter discusses Herodotus' use of the Homeric concept of xenia in the Histories. It argues that the appearance of xenia in key passages reflects the importance of Homeric epic and of the Greek legendary and mythic tradition for Herodotus' historiography. Herodotus foregrounds xenia in two logoi: Croesus' acceptance of Adrastus as a xenos (I.35–45) and Proteus' rebuke of Paris for wronging Menelaus (II.114–117). These logoi culminate in the death of Croesus' son Atys and in Herodotus' statement of his own opinion about the reason for Troy's destruction. The terminology of xenia establishes a Homeric tone that highlights these passages' significance for one of the overarching themes of the Histories: from the earliest encounters of Greeks and Asians onward, the gods made it clear that great transgressions by Eastern rulers would be punished. Paris in the remote past and Croesus at the cusp of humanly verifiable memory are guilty of the same transgression as was Xerxes within living memory; they overstep their bounds and claim more than is their right. Herodotus' inclusion of recognizably Homeric xenia in these logoi underscores the inevitability of divinely-sanctioned nemesis against such transgressions.

Keywords: Adrastus; Croesus; Homeric epic; Menelaus; Memesis; Paris; Proteus; Troy; Xenia; Xerxes

Chapter.  10643 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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