Hostis / Hospes

Year 2019
Category Reportage

The concept of hospitality is widely covered in the Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Nausicaa scolds the handmaids running away from Ulysses and she gives them some courage saying “This man, a miserable wand’rer comes, whom we are bound to cherish, for the poor and stranger are from Jove, and trivial gifts to such are welcome. (Om. Od. VI)”. On the other hand, everyone remembers the not-very-warm hospitality of Polyphemus.

Throughout history, the word hostis, which originally meant “a foreigner who enjoys the same rights as a Roman citizen”, has changed its meaning to “enemy” (hence the word “hostile”). This phenomenon created a semantic gap, fortunately filled by the word hospes, meaning guest. Some centuries passed by, but humankind did not go through significant changes: there are still groups and individuals deciding to welcome people coming from foreign countries, while others still don’t.

In Thessaloniki, Northern Greece, a newly established non-profit organization welcomes people from all over Africa and other countries as hosts. The organization’s name is Philoxenia and its goal is to provide a hot meal to migrants who stop in Thessaloniki on their long and difficult journey to the countries of Northern Europe.

They might not be guests, but for sure they are not enemies. They are people looking for something and in need for help. Men leaving their families and jobs behind looking for a brighter future, looking for eu-topos (land of happiness). Due to barriers and lack of consideration concerning migrations as a phenomenon inherent to human life, these men are seeing their dream of eu-topos turned in ou-topos (a non-existent place, a place they can only dream of).