“Some Shelter from the Wind”: Homer on our Debt to Exiles

Homer, Odyssey 6.205-210

“We live at a great distance from others amid the much-sounding sea,
Far way, and no other mortals visit us.
But this man who has wandered here, who is so ill-starred,
It is right to care for him now. For all are from Zeus,
The strangers and the beggars, and our gift is small but dear to them.
Come, handmaidens, give the stranger food and drink;
Bathe him in the river, where there is shelter from the wind.”

οἰκέομεν δ’ ἀπάνευθε πολυκλύστῳ ἐνὶ πόντῳ,
ἔσχατοι, οὐδέ τις ἄμμι βροτῶν ἐπιμίσγεται ἄλλος.
ἀλλ’ ὅδε τις δύστηνος ἀλώμενος ἐνθάδ’ ἱκάνει,
τὸν νῦν χρὴ κομέειν· πρὸς γὰρ Διός εἰσιν ἅπαντες
ξεῖνοί τε πτωχοί τε, δόσις δ’ ὀλίγη τε φίλη τε.
ἀλλὰ δότ’, ἀμφίπολοι, ξείνῳ βρῶσίν τε πόσιν τε,
λούσατέ τ’ ἐν ποταμῷ, ὅθ’ ἐπὶ σκέπας ἔστ’ ἀνέμοιο.”

Schol. ad. Od. 6.205

“All are from Zeus”: They are sent by Zeus, instead of as exiles, strangers and beggars are all from Zeus and are pitied by him.”

πρὸς γὰρ Διός εἰσιν ἅπαντες] παρὰ Διός εἰσιν, ἀντὶ τοῦ πρόσφυγες Διός εἰσι καὶ οἰκτειρόμενοι παρ’ αὐτοῦ πάντες ξεῖνοί τε πτωχοί τε. E.H.P.Q.

“The gift is small and dear”: It is a small thing to the one who gives, but beloved to the one who receives it. For need makes the small thing dear.”

δόσις ὀλίγη τε φίλη τε] ὀλίγη μὲν τῷ διδόντι, φίλη δὲ τῷ λαμβάνοντι. ἡ γὰρ ἔνδεια καὶ τὸ ὀλίγον φίλον ἡγεῖται. B.E.P.

Odyssey, 14.56-58

“Stranger, it is not right for me, not even if the one who comes is worse than you,
To dishonor a stranger. For all are from Zeus,
The strangers and the beggars and our gift is small but dear to them.

“ξεῖν’, οὔ μοι θέμις ἔστ’, οὐδ’ εἰ κακίων σέθεν ἔλθοι,
ξεῖνον ἀτιμῆσαι· πρὸς γὰρ Διός εἰσιν ἅπαντες
ξεῖνοί τε πτωχοί τε. δόσις δ’ ὀλίγη τε φίλη τε
γίνεται ἡμετέρη· …

Matthew, 5.3

“Blessed are the poor in spirit / since theirs is the kingdom of heaven”

Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι,
ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.

Image result for Ancient Greek suppliant vase

More on refugees:

Vergil: Zeus settles the war-ravaged Trojans in Italy.

Ancient Comments on Universal Citizenship

Diogenes Laertius, 6.63, on Diogenes the Cynic (4th Century BCE)

“When asked where he was from, he said “I am a world-citizen.”

ἐρωτηθεὶς πόθεν εἴη, “κοσμοπολίτης,” ἔφη.

Some Useful Ancient Greek words:

φυγαδεία: “exile, flight”

φυφαδευτήριον: “city of refuge”

φυγαδευτικός: “banishing”

φυγαρσενία: “shunning men”

φυγάς: “An exile, refugee”

φυγόμαχος: “avoiding the battle”

φυγόξενος: “shunning strangers”

φυγόπολις: “fleeing a city”

φυγοπτόλεμος: “avoiding war”

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