PHILOXENIA – THE PRACTICE OF WELCOMING STRANGERS

PHILOXENIA – THE PRACTICE OF WELCOMING STRANGERS

It is perhaps the most natural thing in the world for Greeks to be hoteliers. It all comes down to our philosophy of ‘philoxenia’ (or filoxenia), the practice of welcoming strangers. Literally it means being ‘a friend to a stranger’. It’s the opposite of xenophobia which is being frightened of strangers – which is the case in so many younger cultures.

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The fact is that hospitality has been part of our DNA since the time of the ancient gods. It is very much part of the philosophy of Zeus – and as Zeus was born on Crete we’re naturally quite happy to claim it all started here! As Zeus is also the protector of travellers, even more so at the Mistral.

ZEUS VISTS PHILEMON AND BAUCIS

Philoxenia is typified by a story about Zeus and his son Hermes who came down to earth in disguise to see how hospitable humans were being. Dressed in shabby rags they toured the countryside seeking refuge and food but were repeatedly turned away at the doors of wealthy houses.

Eventually they reached the humble abode of a peasant couple called Philemon and Baucis who welcomed them in and shared their meagre meal and their wine. After refilling their guests cups several times from what he thought was a half full ewer, Philemon discovered that the jug was continuously full. He then realised his guests were from Mount Olympus.

At this stage Philemon offered to kill their only goose to feed them. Touched by this gesture, Zeus turned their little cottage into a Temple and made them the guardians. He also granted them their ultimate wish – to die together on the same day. Many years later, the moment they passed away they were turned into two beautiful trees that stood either site of the temple door.

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NEVER ABUSE HOSPITALITY

Philoxenia, or rather when it is dishonoured, can cause long-lasting strife. It’s abuse is the very cause of the Trojan War which started because the Trojan Prince, Paris, had been welcomed to share the hospitality at the court of King Menelaus of Sparta only to run off with Menelaus’ wife, Helen. Understandable Menelaus was not amused and recruited his brother Agamemnon to raise a fleet of 1,000 ships to sail and rescue her after 10 years of war.

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Luckily we never get that problem at the Mistral. Every visitor is welcomed with open arms, and we all share our food and wine together. Sometimes we even have guests fly in from Paris – but that’s Paris France, not Paris from Troy! Adonis will never need to get 1,000 ships together.