The Greek god Zeus is sometimes called Zeus Xenios in his role as a protector of travelers. He thus embodied the religious obligation to be hospitable to travelers. Theoxeny or theoxenia is a theme in Greek mythology in which humans demonstrate their virtue or piety by extending hospitality to a humble stranger (xenos), who turns out to be a disguised deity (theos) with the capacity to bestow rewards. These stories caution mortals that any guest should be treated as if potentially a disguised divinity and help establish the idea of xenia as a fundamental Greek custom. Equally theoxenia covered entertaining among the gods themselves, a popular subject in classical art, which was revived at the Renaissance in works depicting a Feast of the Gods.
Xenia consists of two basic rules:
- The respect from host to guest. The host must be hospitable to the guest and provide him/her with food and drink and a bath, if required. It is not polite to ask questions until the guest has stated his/her needs.
- The respect from guest to host. The guest must be courteous to the host and not be a burden.
Xenia was considered to be particularly important in ancient times when people thought gods mingled among them. If one had poorly played host to a stranger, there was the risk of incurring the wrath of a god disguised as the stranger. It is thought that the Greek practice of theoxenia may have been the antecedent of the Roman rite of Lectisternium, or the draping of couches.
While this particular origin of the practices of guest-friendship are centralized around the divine, however, it would become common practice among the Greeks to incorporate xenia into their customs and manners for very much all of ancient Greek history. Indeed, while originating from mythical traditions, xenia would very much become a standard practice throughout much (if not, all) of Greece as customarily proper in the affair of men interacting with men as well as men interacting with the Gods.
Acting Well thy Part in respect to XeniaEdit
Player Characters are expected by society to respect Xenia, or Hospitality. In our culture, we've come to the point were a simple traveler isn't respected in the home. This is represented by the fact that Missionaries are not sent without Purse or Scrip anymore in our world. They are to pay their way for hospitality.
In the Hellenistic World, it was completely the opposite. People are taught to shelter travelers in their own homes. PCs who are traveling through the city on adventure can call on the hospitality of their neighbors and they will be responded with hospitality in kind. Player characters are expected to also shelter travelers in their home. Also, PCs are expected to accept someone's hospitality if it's offered. For the virtue of Xenia is respected in Phaeselis and in much of the Alexandrian Empire.