The Phaeacians are the people who live on Scheria, which is an island ruled by King Alcinous. Their society is one very closed off from the rest of the world and they are xenophobic. Athena has to “drift a heavy mist around [Odysseus], shielding them from any swaggering islander who’d cross his path”(7.17-8). “The men here never suffer strangers gladly, have no love for hosting a man from foreign lands.” (7.36-7) The Phaeacians are sailors and port men who “care nothing for bow or quiver, only for masts and oars and good trim ships themselves” (6.296-7). This would suggest that they respect and honor the sea god Poseidon in particular.
The Phaeacians seem to live in a flourishing time. Odysseus “found the Phaeacian lords and captains tipping out libations” (7.160-1) and there is much description about the luxurious lives the Phaeacians live – “Here the Phaeacian lords would sit enthroned, dining, drinking – the feast flowed on forever” (7.114-115). Also, the island is very beautiful, especially the palace and its gardens. Homer dedicates numerous long lines describing the wondrous “resplendent halls” (7.53) and “magnificent orchard” (7.130).
They are nice to Odysseus as they follow their King’s and Queen’s lead. King Alcinous is very nice to his guest when revered Echeneus chided him into letting Odysseus sit and partake in the feast. King Alcinous responded in kind, “[sitting] him down in a burnished chair, displacing his own son, the courtly Lord Laodamas who had sat beside him, the son he loved most” (7.201-3). After hearing Odysseus’ story, King Alcinous pitied Odysseus and showered him with acts of kindness, even offering his daughter for Odysseus to wed. In addition, “Athena lavished a marvelous splendor over Odysseus’ head and shoulders” (8.20-1) so “Phaeacians might regard the man with kindness, awe and respect” (8.24-5).
The Phaeachians live very easy lives, having much time to partake in games, feasts and music. Their easy lives contrast very strongly with Odysseus’ own life filled with misery and hardship. This can be seen when the bard Demodocus sang. The Phaeacian lords “reveled” in the tales while Odysseus wept. The Phaeacians could not even fathom the depths of pain and suffering that Odysseus has gone though.
The contrast is once again highlighted later in the chapter when Laodamas and Broadsea taunt Odysseus to join them in the games. The Phaeacian’s glory-seeking actions seem most naïve beside Odysseus’s somber attitude despite his many heroic acts. For the Phaeacians there is no “greater glory than what he wins with his racing feet and striving hands” (8. 170-1). They do not understand hardship and suffering the same way Odysseus does. “Pain weigh on my spirit now, not your sports” (8.178). Odysseus has much more important priorities compared to the Phaeacians. He is not concerned with the simplistic way of earning glory.