Abstract

The Homeric hospitality system depicts extraordinary risk and trust. Although ethnographic comparisons with similar systems in contemporary non-industrialized societies lend some credence to these exchanges, some aspects appear implausible. Recent advances in game theory, which mathematically represents systems of cooperation, suggest that self-interested strangers (as are many of the characters depicted in Homeric hospitality scenes) can plausibly build cooperative communities with long-term viability. Recognizing such patterns of human competitive strategies in Homer adds support for the historicity of the relational aspects of the Homeric epics.

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