Odysseus is forced to show humility by first asking Nausicaa for help at the river, and then further shows humility by being at the whim of the rules of the aide he seeks. He is also showing humility when he chooses to bathe himself, instead of having Nausicaa’s ladies bathe him. Athena must assist him as he approaches the palace of Alcinous because she has to protect him from drawing the attention of the Phaeacians, as they do not take kindly to strangers. She shields him with her mist in order to provide him with safe passage to the castle. What this says about the society and travelers of the ancient world is that there is always an air of suspicion and the need to be wary. Perhaps it is because of conflict or because of paranoia, but it seems that any outsider to any location was not viewed as innocently as they may have been (although this seems to conflict with the welcoming of guests by the kings and queens of the places visited in the text).
Hospitality is defined according to Odysseus’ experience at the palace in Phaeacia as being dependent on Queen Arete’s sympathies. If one can secure her “friendly interest” then there is sure to be no dispute about being treated hospitably. Arete is seen as wise and therefore her decisions about the nature of a guest is one that can be trusted. It is also defined by the generous hospitality given by everyone almost immediately after he sits in the ashes of the fireplace. This compares to Telemachus’ experience earlier at Pylos and Sparta, by again the treatment of being an “honorary guest”, one who is given substantial hospitality and entertainment. It further compares to the scenes at Ithaca in Odysseus’ own palace with the suitors by once again there is a giving of food and some semblance of hospitality. Although Antinous’ verbal attack also compares to Euryalus’ insulting of Odysseus back in Phaeacia.
In book 8 Odysseus’ interaction with Nausicaa compares to the first one in book 6 by reiterating the fact that Odysseus is humbled by her helping him. There is a slight reversal of their respective roles when it comes to viewing the other – in book 6 it was Odysseus observing her as he obscured himself, but in book 8 it is Nausicaa who observes him. As to the question of how important women are in how strangers are treated, the argument can be made that they are very important. The simple fact that none of the hospitality that was given to Odysseus would have occurred if 1) Nausicaa had refused his plea for help at the river and 2) if Queen Arete had not taken a “friendly interest” in him, or shown him sympathy. Yes, the other men in the story provide him with food, gifts, etc., (although with minor tension and conflict) it was all dependent on the initial response of the women to him. Telemachus was similarly hosted by Menelaus and Helen, as there is a warm welcome, as well as a common process of hospitality that includes bathing, clothing, feeding, and entertaining – all without immediately asking for names or identification. Odysseus’ identity is recognized by King Alcinous by way of the minstrel’s songs. He sings of the feats and victories of Odysseus, and Odysseus each time weeps at the memories. As for Telemachus, so too is he identified by his weeping after hearing recounts of tails, as they include mention of his father. They do not show their “IDs” so to speak, as it seems as if it is not necessary. Guests seem to be welcome to long as they make it to the palatial spaces of whichever place they are traveling by/through.