This article provides a historical perspective to understand better whether hospitality persists as a measure of society across contexts. Focusing on Homer and later Tragedians, it charts ancient literature’s deep interest in the tensions of balancing obligations to provide hospitality and asylum, and the responsibilities of well-being owed to host-citizens by their leaders. Such discourse appears central at key transformative moments, such as the Greek polis democracy of the fifth century BCE, hospitality becoming the marker between civic society and the international community, confronting the space between civil and human rights. At its center was the question of: Who is the host? The article goes on to question whether the seventeenth-century advent of the nation state was such a moment, and whether in the twenty-first century we observe a shift towards states’ treatment of their own subjects as primary in measuring society, with hospitality becoming the exception to be explained.