3. Herodotos hermēneus
Herodotus himself assumes the role of interpreter when he translates a foreign word into Greek or provides a native term. Aside from Psammetichus’ discovery that bekós is Phrygian for bread (2.2), all switches of the linguistic code in the Histories occur in metanarrative.  In about twenty cases the narrator deliberately introduces a common noun denoting some object found in a foreign land (e.g. “a plant they call so and so”).  When the linguistic switch proceeds in the other direction, Herodotus’ linguistic glosses occasionally serve to translate foreign common nouns that appear in the narrative or in the utterance of a character, according to a pattern familiar in modern fiction.  For the most part, however, they give some explanation for proper names of individuals, peoples, or places either by translating the word etymologically into Greek or by mentioning an alternative name in Greek (what “the Greeks call x”).  Translations of proper names also include passages that place the foreign name of a divinity side by side with the Greek. Here the pattern tends to proceed from the familiar Greek name: “In Egyptian, Apollo is Horus, Demeter Isis, and Artemis Boubastis.”  Another type of translation is represented by six glosses that explain what a measurement by foreign standards “means” (dunatai) when converted into Greek standards. 
Unless Herodotus is explaining a local Greek term, most translations involve the actual appearance of barbarian names, terms, or loan words in the text.  Some glosses, however, state that a foreign people call x by a certain word, and the word given is Greek, perhaps implicitly representing the translation of a local foreign term which the narrator does not give. 
Though the categories I have mentioned more or less coincide with the modern distinction between proper names and common nouns, such distinction should not be pressed too far. In the fifth century, onoma is the only Greek term that denotes a single word as a grammatical and phonetic entity,  as opposed to an utterance (epos, logos, rhēma, or rhēsis), which occasionally may consist of a single word.  Both proper and common names (as well as participles and adjectives) are included in the Greek category of onomata, and language is viewed as a collection of “names” for things that exist in the world.  Herodotus does not discuss terms denoting virtues or other abstract concepts that some of his contemporaries analyzed in Greek.  He gives cultural translations of what Persians, Scythians and so on call (for example) “courage” by mentioning the types of behaviors that would be labeled as “courageous” in those foreign cultural codes.  But the range of his linguistic translations is more limited: names of individual human beings and gods, of ethnic and other groups, of institutions, customs, places, geographical features, animals, plants, and items of material culture. Herodotus’ interest in language, at any rate, has mainly to do with the participation in the Histories of peoples from different cultures; it is related to the narrator’s broader project of explaining them to his own audience.
Hartog rightly observed that from an ethnographic viewpoint these interventions tend to have a contradictory effect. On the one hand, translation is a bridge that gives a means of access to a distant environment. On the other hand, the translation or, even more, the deliberate introduction of a foreign word, emphasizes the gap between “here” and “over there.”  It remains now to be seen how specific cases produce these effects. Herodotus’ linguistic glosses are both something more and something different than rhetorical displays of exoticism and professional competence, as Hartog seems to maintain. Through them the narrator assigns to himself and to his audience specific ideological positions with regard to the speech of the barbaroi.
Questioning Greek knowledge
In glosses attached to proper names of persons or places that appear in the narrative, the narrator explains what x “means” or “is called” in the Greek language or by the Greeks.  When the Greek name is clearly just an alternative to the original, the gloss represents the reverse of those passages in the Iliad that mention side by side the divine and the human name of a person or place as, for example, “the one the gods call Briareus, and all men Aigaion.”  In Homer there are, practically speaking, no foreign languages; the main cultural divide is that which separates gods from mortals. When Homer translates words used by the gods, it occurs in a vacuum; this shows the only relatively privileged nature of the poet’s relationship with the divine world. The narrator of the Histories, by contrast, is at home in the setting to which the unfamiliar name belongs (a distant but human setting, after all). Not only does he know, he also regularly uses the foreign names as an integral part of his history of cultures. Because the Greek counterpart is derivative or mistaken, it appears in the text only once, as a point of reference: 
The Greeks call also the Budini “Geloni,” but they are wrong (οὐκ ὀρθῶς).
Candaules, whom the Greeks call Myrsilus, was the king of Sardis …
1.7.2In the first case the Greek name reveals insufficiently detailed ethnographic knowledge, since the half-Greek Geloni live in the territory of the Budini but are entirely dissimilar from them in origin, appearance, language, and customs.  The second gloss implies that the Greek name, however people came up with it, does not legitimately replace the Lydian consensus about one of their kings.  Naming historical figures, places, and peoples—and doing so with the utmost accuracy—is a fundamental aspect of Herodotus’ task. 
The names by which the Greeks call foreign peoples and places are sometimes based on their own perception that the original names represent Greek words:
the river which the Scythians call Porata and the Greeks Pyretos.
Mardonius … then sends against the Greeks the whole Persian cavalry led by Masistios, a man of great renown among the Persians, whom the Greeks call Makistios.
9.20Pyretos, ‘the Fiery One’, applied to a river in Scythia, seems to show that the Greeks find any meaning preferable to no meaning at all.  On the other hand, Makistios, ‘Tall Man’, is analogous to many Greek renditions of foreign names that Herodotus normally uses as authentic;  it refers to physical characteristics and suggests magnificence, as Persian names normally do (1.139); and it coincides with Herodotus’ description of this particular Persian general as an imposing figure.  But also the form Makistios, like Pyretos, is attributed to the Greeks so that it is not clear from the point of view of the text that either one represents an accurate translation rather than a Greek distortion of the original name.
This brings us to Herodotus’ ambivalent attitude toward phonetic resemblances between barbarian languages and Greek. Herodotus has his own special sense of the occasional, mysterious transparency of foreign languages.  But he is also critical of the Greeks’ unreflective response to barbarian names and the deafness they display to forms of speech not their own. To the Greek claim that the first king of Cyrene was named “Battus” because he stammered (from Greek battarizō), the narrator objects that, on the other hand: “in Libyan battos means ‘king’ (basileus).”  For Herodotus phonetic similarity is not always a guide to correct and complete interpretation, just as irreducible difference does not preclude meaning.
Names as logoi and muthoi
The Greek denominations Pyretos and Makistios illustrate the tendency to make a name say something about its object—to turn an onoma into a logos.  The substitution of sounds or letters that create these descriptive names is part of a current procedure in the Greek etymologies produced by poets, philosophers, Homeric commentators, Sophists, and other types of critics. Though most of the specific evidence is lost, we still have numerous examples from Homer and Hesiod to the fifth century and beyond.  Most remarkably, in Plato’s Cratylus Socrates treats his interlocutors to a long agonistic display of etymologies in which he outdoes contemporary practitioners at their own game.  The etymologist’s work consists in relating a proper name or common noun to other words so as to discover the name’s deep content.  This may produce unexpected results and often requires slight (or not so slight) phonetic changes of the Poretos/Pyretos kind, as when Plato’s Socrates derives the name Atreus from the adjective ateros ‘ruinous’. 
Herodotus’ familiarity with the etymologizing activity of his time is clear when he derives the Greek or “Ancient Pelasgian” word theoi from the root -θε- (the-) ‘to settle’ (2.52.1). The Cratylus contains many etymologies of this sort.  As far-fetched as they may seem to us, they were designed to elicit in the audience a retrospective sense of recognition and discovery as well as admiration for the ingenuity of the speaker, who was able to reveal the inner meaning of words.  Herodotus, however, mainly etymologizes barbarian names for which he does not attempt to exploit a resemblance or relation to Greek:
This spring is located at the border between the ploughmen-Scythians and the Alazones. The name of the spring and of the place whence it flows is in Scythian ( Σκυθιστί ) Exampaios and in Greek (κατὰ … τὴν Ἑλλήνων γλῶσσαν) Sacred Ways.
4.52.3The translation of the name and the elements of which it is composed here remains unverifiable. One must trust the word and linguistic expertise of the narrator, who has been at the site, talked to the natives, and learned the local names (4.81.2–6; cf. 4.52.1). 
Etymology makes a proper name reveal something about the importance, history, or attributes of the object to which it refers or, more precisely, it reflects the name-givers’ perceptions of all these things. Foreign local names, unlike what “the Greeks call” some distant reality, provide an insider’s view. Thus, in reference to the Egyptian troops who rebelled against Psammetichus and went over to the Ethiopian king after a particularly long service at the southern border of Egypt, the Greek term is the “Deserters” (αὐτόμολοι). In Egyptian, however,
the name of these “Deserters” is Asmakh, and this word in Greek means “Those who stand at left of the king.”
τοἰσι δὲ αὐτομόλοισι τούτοισι οὔνομά ἐστι Ἀσμάχ, δύναται δὲ τοῦτο τὸ ἔπος κατὰ τὴν Ἑλλήνων γλῶσσαν οἱ ἐξ ἀριστερῆς χειρὸς παριστάμενοι βασιλεῖ.
2.30.1The Egyptian name, ounoma, is called an epos, that is to say, an “utterance” or logos which tells a more complicated story than “deserters” or any other single word can express in Greek.  It also appears to reflect the point of view of these soldiers, whose discontent for their second-class position in Egypt caused them to resettle in Ethiopian lands.  Similarly, the Scythian name for the Amazons, once translated by components, describes the warrior character of this culture in a more direct and perhaps more truthful way than their name in Greek:
The Scythians call the Amazons Oiorpata, and this name means in Greek (δύναται … κατὰ Ἑλλάδα γλῶσσαν) “Mankillers” (ἀνδρο-κτόνοι); for they call “man” oior, and “kill” pata.
What the etymology of a name reveals does not of course always constitute factual truth. Descriptive proper names, like the logoi the narrator reports, are only as reliable as the cultural knowledge they reflect. Thus the name of the so-called Arimaspoi, which is Scythian and means “One-Eyed” (“for the Scythians call ‘one’ arima and ‘eye’ spou” 4.27), merely testifies to the Scythian belief, based on unverified reports obtained from the neighboring Issedones, in the existence of a people of one-eyed men at the Northern extremities of the earth.  The narrator, however, rejects that claim (3.116). Comparable cases of uncorroborated logoi on the Greek side include, for example, the uncertain tradition on the Hyperboreans, ‘Men Beyond the North Wind’ (4.32–36.1), and the invention (verb heuriskein) of the river Ocean by Homer and Hesiod or some earlier poet.  Herodotus specifically talks about the invention of the ounoma ‘name’ of Ocean (2.23), pointing not so much to the word as a phonetic and graphic entity as to the idea it communicates of a river that encircles the earth.  While in the case of the gods one cannot object to their human “names”—meaning, again, the conceptual image people have of each of them—“Ocean” is ascribed to the physical world and cannot be treated as irrefutable. In the absence of corroboration, it is an empty name and a false logos. The narrator calls it a muthos ‘myth’.
When it comes to the description of the earth, Greek scientific theorizing meets mythology through the process of naming. Herodotus criticizes the abstract subdivision of the earth in Ionian maps in the same breath as the choice of “Asia,” “Libya,” and “Europe” as the continents’ names:
I cannot understand for what reason, since the earth is one, there should be three names (ounomata) placed on it, deriving their denomination (epōnumias) from women … and I cannot find out the names of those who made the subdivision, nor the sources from which they took these denominations (epōnumias).
4.45.2Libya is supposed to have been a woman native of the land she named, and Asia is named after the wife of Prometheus—unless “Asia” is a Lydian name, derived from that of Asies, the son of Cotys. As for Europe, no one knows whether it is surrounded by water—that is to say, it is not clear that it is a separate land mass, worthy of its own name in the first place. Moreover, if this region is called after the Tyrian princess abducted to Crete, the eponymic model again makes no sense.
Herodotus’ rejection of the role of these mythical women in geography parallels his skepticism in the proem towards the historical relevance of the abductions of women in the Persian and Phoenician narratives of the proem (1.1–5).  But while Herodotus’ logos needs Helen or Io as little as it needs Ocean, it cannot do away with the continents. “Enough with these matters,” the narrator says, τοῖσι νομιζομένοισι χρησόμεθα—“we will continue to use the customary names” (4.45.5).
Descriptive names sometimes represent reality in metaphorical terms, with neither claims to realism nor intention to deceive. A pleasant spot in the middle of the desert is appropriately named in Greek “Islands of the Blessed” (3.26.1). The name of a temple in Egypt “of foreign Aphrodite” is charming but misleading. Luckily the histōr understands that it really denotes Helen, who is honored in Egypt since her stay in that land while the war was raging at Troy on her behalf (2.112.2). In names, as in oracular utterances, metaphors need to be interpreted as such to be informative about their referents or creators. The histōr is an expert hermēneus ‘interpreter’ in the linguistic, as in the religious, area.  The Scythians say that to the north of their country, beyond the territory of their immediate neighbors, the earth and air are all full of feathers that impede progress and visibility (4.7.3). In his subsequent account of bitter Scythian winters, Herodotus steps in to offer his opinion (gnōmē) about these feathers. They clearly refer to snow flakes, which fall in abundance in Northern Europe and which resemble (οἶκε) feathers, as everyone who has seen snow knows (4.31.1):
It is therefore in a figurative sense (εἰκάζοντας), I think (δοκέω), that the Scythians and their neighbors call the snow “feathers.”
The Scythian report does not point to a fabulous land where feathers fall out of the sky nor does it indicate that the Scythians consider snow and feathers as one and the same.  The length of Herodotus’ explanation and the triple grammatical first person show that the narrator is interpreting barbarian speech that was, or could be, misunderstood in the translation.  Linguistic metaphor is among the Scythians a form of economy well suited to their simple culture, as are their rude expressions: “Go weep!” (κλαίειν λέγω, 4.127.4) is a Scythian rhēsis, says Herodotus.  Similarly, the Spartans are colloquially abrupt, call an arrow “spindle,” and economize on words. 
Metaphorical names lend themselves to misinterpretation or even political instrumentalization. According to Herodotus, the wife of the cowherd who raised Cyrus, “was named Kyno (i.e. ‘Dog’) in Greek, and in Median Spako; for the Medes call a bitch spako” (1.110.1). This verbal correspondence later allowed Cyrus’ real parents to spread the tale that he had been suckled by a bitch “so that the Persians might think even more that the child was saved by the will of the gods” (1.122.3).  Already Hecataeus had recognized the potential of language for creating false logoi. When he explains that Cerberus was really a serpent metaphorically named “the hound of Hades” (FGrHist 1 F 27), his rationalizing critique of the myth uses a procedure similar to that of Herodotus in the story of Spako, only in reverse.
That names, like logoi, can be misleading and that one cannot always attain knowledge through them are aspects of Herodotus’ critical stance toward what people conventionally say and think. For him names entail conceptual representations (as the names of the gods), but they are autonomous from the sphere of concrete facts. Some names exist with no corresponding reality (e.g., Ocean and Arimaspoi ‘One-Eyed Men’).  A single name can denote two different referents,  just as one thing can legitimately be called by different names.  Conversely, not all that exists in nature has a name or a good enough name, nor always the same name over time.  Symbolic of the flexible degree of dependence between a thing and its identity (or identification) through naming are the streams of the vale of Thessaly that flow into the Peneus river:
the Peneus overwhelms the other rivers with its name (τῷ οὐνόματι) and renders them nameless (ἀνωνύμους). They say that in ancient times, when the vale and outlet did not yet exist, these rivers did not have names (οὔτε ὀνομάζέσθαι) as now, but still used to flow no less than now.
But Herodotus’ awareness that objects are separable from names leaves room for cases when an intimate, even mysterious connection appears to exist between the two. It is at least possible that, when confronted with something that can be documented in other ways, one might be able to recognize it in its name. This attitude is consistent with the purpose of fifth-century Greek etymology, which does not investigate historical linguistic roots and original meanings, but rather tests the appropriateness of a name to its object.  Greek interest in the relation between language and the world is in turn tied to the issue we have already mentioned of whether language itself exists “by nature” (φύσει) or “by convention” (νόμῳ, συνθήκῃ, or ὁμολογίᾳ). If an individual word is a natural feature of its referent—for example, the bekós of 2.2.3 in Psammetichus’ interpretation of his experiment—it will suit it perfectly.  Thus, in Plato’s Cratylus, Socrates suggests that the names Homer mentions as belonging to the language of the gods must of course be naturally right (Cratylus 391d–e). If, on the other hand, signifiers are chosen by convention, one may argue that they are arbitrary, more or less well crafted, or replaceable by other labels.
In the Cratylus, the homonymous character theorizes that names and things are strictly linked. In his view, a word that does not naturally belong to the object to which the speaker refers is not a name at all, but mere noise, or the name of something else (383b; 429b–430a). His opponent Hermogenes is a radical conventionalist who maintains that any name by which one chooses to call something is just as good as another. Socrates mediates between these two positions. On the side of convention, he maintains that naming is a human activity and therefore subject to error.  Even the most expressive of names cannot teach us about essences. We must learn about things first through the things themselves because by investigating their nature through names we are likely to be deceived (436a–440e). At the same time, independently of what a name expresses, convention plays an important role in communication. The name of Socrates’ interlocutor Hermogenes, for example, is not very suitable, since this individual is no “son of Hermes,” in either a literal or a metaphorical sense.  The word sklērotēs is also imperfect, though on different grounds: it is supposed to mean “hardness,” yet the “l” sound it contains rather imitates softness. But if everyone uses these names to indicate certain referents, they legitimately represent their names and are essential for fulfilling the proper task of all names, that is to say, instruction.  Socrates’ argument here recalls Herodotus’ declaration that he will refer to the continents by their customary names (τοῖσι νομιζομένοισι) even though he finds them unsatisfactory. 
On the other side of the issue, Socrates indulges Cratylus’ view by verifying at great length that actual names in Greek are significant by virtue of their resemblance to their referents. Like Herodotus, he considers it desirable for a word to bear a natural relation to the thing named. Leaving aside its more profound philosophical repercussions for Plato’s thought, the argument in the Cratylus testifies to a culture-wide way of looking at language and names. Both proper and common names say something meaningful about their objects—or so they should, to be good names—and it is normal to try and evaluate how well they do this.  A name that is appropriately imposed or used is considered “correct”: orthos and derivatives are key terms in fifth-century discussions about language.  In the etymological section of the Cratylus, for example, Socrates argues that of the two names of Hector’s son, Scamandrius and Astyanax, Homer attributes a higher degree of correctness (orthotēs) to the latter, since “Lord of the city” is appropriate for the son of the sole defender of Troy. 
In Herodotus we have already seen the adverb orthōs used to reject as “not right” the practice of referring to an object the name belonging to another object (4.109.1: “Geloni” is not the right name of the Budini, but of a different people). Elsewhere Herodotus praises the orthotēs of a foreign name that appears to represent accurately the thing to which it refers. In these cases etymological analogy reveals to the histōr a correspondence between the name and its object that can be verified by other means: “This lake is rightly (orthōs) called ‘mother of Hypanis’” (4.52.1).  The “mother of Hypanis” is a great body of water from which the Scythian river Hypanis flows.  Somewhat like “feathers” for “snow,” this Scythian metaphor corresponds to a hypothetical eyewitness’s perception of the referent. We cannot be sure this time that the idiom in fact translates a foreign word, but given the entirely Scythian context of the gloss, it comes across as such. 
In the following gloss, the narrator exploits the transparency of the foreign name and implicitly relates the Scythian name “Papaios” to the Greek word pappas ‘father’: “In Scythian (Σκυθιστί) Zeus is called, most correctly in my opinion (ὀρθότατα κατὰ γνώμην γε τὴν ἐμήν), Papaios” (4.59.2).  Nowhere else in the Histories does Herodotus etymologize, much less evaluate, the name of a divinity, whether in Greek or any other language.  Glosses that give the foreign equivalent of the name of a Greek god are normally incidental to descriptions of cult and contain no other comment.  Since the explanation of a name amounts to a logos, the fact that Herodotus does not explain divine names is consistent with his program of avoiding discussion of τὰ … θεῖα τῶν ἀπηγημάτων οἳα ἤκουον … ἔξω ἢ τὰ οὐνόματα αὐτῶν μοῦνον, ‘the narratives I heard about the gods, except their names pure and simple’ (2.3.2). “Papaios” is a unique case in which the name of a foreign divinity confirms his or her identification with one of the Olympians. The narrator corroborates the description conveyed by the name, signals his caution, and takes responsibility: ‘at least in my opinion’, κατὰ γνώμην γε τὴν ἐμήν.  According to the Scythians, Gaia is the wife of Zeus (4.59.1). This is peculiar to them, and equivalent to the different cultural beliefs of other nations (2.3.2).  But their name for Zeus, at any rate, shows signs of correctness, because it expresses what the Greek name expresses, the idea of life-giving, and this agrees with what the Greeks and many other peoples believe about the essential, patriarchal position of their main divinity. 
Herodotus’ evaluation of the “rightness” of barbarian names is unparalleled in Greek literature. The contemporary fifth-century tendency to look at language and speech in terms of greater or lesser orthotēs seems in most cases to have focused on Greek only, ignoring other languages.  The Cratylus provides a partial exception to this rule, because it explicitly maintains that barbarian onomata may be correct. According to Cratylus, “the standard of correctness (orthotēs) in names is the same for all men, both Greek and barbarians” (383a–b). Socrates approves of this position and brings it one step further: the Greek and the barbarian name for the same thing can both be right, just as two or more completely different Greek names can have the same dunamis (‘meaning/force’) and an equal degree of correctness (Hector, ‘Holder/Ruler’, and Astyanax, ‘Lord of the City’, for example). 
The concessions to the legitimacy of barbarian names in the Cratylus must have been controversial among contemporary Greeks. If we compare them with the passage in the Statesman that rejects as lopsided the chauvinistic distinction between Greeks and barbarians, Plato’s position appears rooted in a polemic somewhat similar to that of Herodotus.  The regard for foreign languages in the Cratylus, in contrast to the Histories, remains entirely theoretical. In practice, Cratylus regards Greek as correct for the most part and makes no similar claim for any other language.  Socrates, for his part, gives no example of foreign names showing that they are (or are not) correct. He considers Greek words only, either by deriving them from other Greek words (etymology) or, in the case of primary names, by analyzing their forms and sounds as vocal imitations of certain qualities inherent to their objects. When he cannot make sense of certain words by either method—as in the case, for example, of pur ‘fire’ and hudōr ‘water’—he ironically adopts what he calls a clever expedient (mēkhanē): they are of barbarian derivation, possibly Phrygian.  It seems that since barbarian words are incomprehensible to the Greeks, incomprehensible Greek words must therefore be barbarian.
The conversation of philosophers in the Cratylus both transcends and reflects the unexamined assumptions of the general public. In the ethnic prejudice of the Greeks the word barbaroi denotes those who speak in an unintelligible way, and more specifically—since the word objectifies the subjective—the utterers of inarticulate and meaningless sounds.  This definition of the non-Greek seems almost to have provided the model for what Cratylus in the dialogue says about those who do not use the “right” and true names of things: they are not speakers but makers of noises, “like one banging on a cauldron” (Cratylus 430a5–6).
The narrator of the Histories is not, as we have seen, entirely immune from impressionistic descriptions of barbarian speech as pure sound,  but the evidence of his etymologies rather points in the other direction. The language of the primitive Scythians makes sense and has its own brand of expressiveness. Barbarians, like Greeks, can be competent crafters of names.
Within the broader issue of correctness, personal names occupy a special place. In Euripides’ Trojan Women, Hecuba exclaims at one point that Aphrodite is rightly (orthōs) named from aphrosunē, ‘folly’, as she recognizes from her own experience the goddess and her destructive work in her name.  Human names were given with the intention to communicate something, to classify its bearer or endow him with an auspicious symbol.  In Herodotus, Persian names are important indicators of status; by contrast, the nameless Atarantes must have seemed, from a Greek point of view, impoverished indeed. 
Greek parents named their children after an ancestor, the family’s hereditary craft, characteristics or accomplishments of the father (or sometimes of the mother), or with theophoric names—like the misapplied “Hermogenes” of the Cratylus or, for that matter, “Herodotus.”  In historical times, at least, it was rare for a person to have a name designed to characterize him individually.  If a name retrospectively turned out to suit special features of its adult owner, the correspondence was a sort of revelation.  As soon as Herodotus mentions the Athenian statesman Aristides (the form of the name is a patronymic: “son of …”), he emphasizes his well-known honesty and calls him aristos (8.79.1).  The text of the Histories also alludes to the profound symbolic importance of the name of Leonidas, ‘son of Lion’, which so perfectly and mysteriously encapsulates the essence of the warrior-king of Thermopylae.  Similarly, Herodotean characters pay attention to each other’s names. 
Even more unexpected are those cases when a name turns out to describe, not its owner’s permanent attributes, but that person’s role in a particular historical context or from an outsider’s viewpoint. At the time of the Greek land victory of Plataea, the name of a Samian herald persuades the Spartan king Leotychides to support with the fleet an Ionian revolt against Persia. This man made a long-winded speech, but Leotychides interrupted him.
Either because he wanted to know in order to receive an omen, or by a chance brought about by god (κατὰ συντυχίην θεοῦ ποιεῦντος), Leotychides said: “Stranger from Samos, what is your name?” The other said, “Hegesistratus (i.e., ‘Leader of the Army’).” Cutting Hegesistratus short, in case he was about to add something else, Leotychides said: “I accept the omen, stranger from Samos.”
9.91.1–2The episode ironically characterizes Spartan religiosity, their standoffishness with strangers, and their dislike for long speeches.  But Herodotus’ narrative suggests the fortuitous nature of Leotychides’ question (κατὰ συντυχίην θεοῦ ποιεῦντος) and creates another omen with the pun involving his name: συντυχίην/Λεοτυχίδης.  The ominous meaning of the names of the men who will lead the Greeks to Mycale is later confirmed by the other divine signs predicting the victory. 
In Herodotus, foreign names can also be profoundly meaningful. The following gloss appears at the end of an important interpretive passage, where the narrator says that an unprecedented number of evils have befallen Greece during the generations of Darius, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes:
In Greek these names mean (δύναται … κατὰ Ἑλλάδα γλῶσσαν), Darius Erxies (‘Doer’), Xerxes Areios (‘Warrior’), Artaxerxes Megas Areios (‘Great Warrior’). This is what the Greeks would correctly (orthōs) call these kings in their language.
The etymological note appeared so abrupt and unmotivated that editors used to excise it from the text, but all now recognize that it serves to confirm the preceding interpretation by bringing out the nomen-omen factor.  Herodotus first identifies the earthquake of Delos at the time of the Persian crossing in 490 BC as a divine occurrence marking the inception of the evils that have plagued Greece in this period, partly as a result of the Persian invasion and partly on account of internal wars. Then he reports an old oracle that had predicted the earthquake. As a third order of signs, he inserts the passage cited above, with his translation of the mighty names that “name” the epoch. The context is prophetic as is the substance of the narrator’s “beginning of evil” pronouncement.  Herodotus’ etymologies have the mantic character of Leotychides’ discovery of Hegesistratus’ name and of the creation and interpretation of names as represented in Plato’s Cratylus.
As Herodotus interprets the Persian names and creates original translations, his choice of Greek forms is nothing short of sensational. Areios is predominantly poetic, especially Homeric, and not elsewhere applied to persons in the Histories. Erxies is semantically transparent—formed on the root erg-, ‘do’—but in the words of A. B. Cook, “excessively rare.”  These forms, used instead of more ordinary Greek words, reveal that Herodotus is not simply translating in order to explain the verbal meaning of the names but is also making an effort to maintain intact the connotative qualities, or force (dunatai), of the Persian originals.
But there is more. Cook drew attention to a glaring similarity between Greek and Persian forms and proposed to emend the text into “Darius Areios, Xerxes Erxies, Artaxerxes Megas Erxies (or rather, Karta Erxies).” If we accept Cook’s emendation, this is a straightforward, if especially creative, case of perceived transparency between a foreign language and Greek.  We are, however, faced with the problem of how a textual corruption of this sort could ever have occurred.  Chamberlain, who prefers to keep the lectio difficilior, argues that it is nevertheless unlikely that the echo of the original names in the rare Greek forms might have been produced unconsciously or by chance. The problem then becomes what the translator was thinking by interlacing phonetically similar forms from father to son. 
According to Chamberlain, Herodotus has what he calls a “meta-rhythmic” view of translation. He applies to language the conception of the rhusmos (Attic rhuthmos) ‘flowing shape’, which Democritus attributes to the atoms, and he discovers a more hidden transparency in foreign languages by transposing individual letters, syllables, or entire words.  Herodotus says that the Phoenicians who imported the alphabet to Greece changed the shape (rhuthmos) of the letters when they changed their language from Phoenician to Greek.  Similarly, “Herodotean translation … deals with the rhusmos or synoptic shape of the word and, hence, with what other words it can be exchanged (dunatai).” 
Chamberlain’s metarhythmic theory cannot be applied to all, or even most, of Herodotus’ translations of foreign words. It complements, however, the evidence concerning Herodotus’ views of transparency and, in this particular passage, it has the merit of maintaining both the integrity of the text and the meaningfulness of the formal aspects of Herodotus’ translation. Herodotus the researcher (like the histōr as a character of the Histories) can choose how to interpret the evidence and whether to include it in his work, but he cannot deliberately distort or invent it. Faced with the information, for example, that the name of Darius has to do with activity and that of Xerxes with belligerence (and not the other way around or some other meaning), he allows his audience nevertheless to discover that there is a way, though not the most direct and obvious way, in which the Greek meaning of these Persian names is connected with how their sound and shape in the original language strikes a Greek speaker.  As it happens, the intertwining of the names through their translation into Greek symbolically enhances the idea that they are significant not individually but in a block: in Herodotus’ interpretation of the earthquake of Delos, the three consecutive generations of kings define what is, from the point of view of the Greeks, a unitary period of history. 
The narrator’s attempt to come up with the right names for these kings, only in Greek, is confirmed by the second sentence of the gloss, a retrospective conclusion which at first sight seems particularly redundant but which corroborates his translation with the telltale orthōs. Often the Greeks ascribe to foreign people and things the wrong name, but here “this is what the Greeks would correctly (orthōs) call these kings in their language.” Herodotus is not commenting on the correctness of the original barbarian names in this case (though that is surely implied),  but rather on that of the Greek words that interpret and translate them. These etymologies demonstrate that, if one takes due care, it is possible to translate certain names that belong to one ethnos correctly into the language of another ethnos, and produce a name that is orthos, i.e, one that describes the object as appropriately as the original does.
In the representation we derive from Herodotus’ translations of barbarian names into Greek, all languages apparently work very much in the same way. Opaque foreign words (e.g. the Median for “dog”) are apparently no more or less correct, arbitrary, or explainable than their Greek counterparts.  Foreign languages also include names that possess a varying degree of phonetic transparency from the point of view of a Greek listener, though a foreign name’s resemblance to Greek does not invariably lead to a correct interpretation of its meaning. When words, simple or in combination and more or less transparent, are applied attributively to persons and places, they convey descriptions or definitions (logoi) which can be rendered into a Greek word or phrase possessing a degree of orthotēs in relation to their objects equal to that of the originals. Herodotus’ etymological translations indicate that different languages are equivalent in worth and meaning, so that the narrator can make an unfamiliar world more familiar through translation.
Giving the “right” word
Another type of metalinguistic gloss provides a common noun designating a foreign object or institution for which the Greek language has no original name, or no adequate name, or no name at all.  In a few cases the gloss acknowledges a linguistic and material debt of the Greeks to a foreign culture (never the other way around). Thus the translation of the Greek word for the aromatic substance “ledanum—which the Arabs call ladanum” (3.112)—establishes that, since Arabia is the only land to produce this and other spices (3.107.1), the Greek name is based on the Arabic. In the course of the same description the narrator reminds his audience of the foreign origin of the Greek name of another spice collected in Arabia, “sticks, which we call cinnamon , with a word we learned from the Phoenicians” (3.111.2). 
Most of the foreign terms in these glosses, however, are opaque words for things that are unknown to the Greeks and have no name in Greek. These notations have an entirely different effect from the ones considered in the preceding section. Instead of giving a comforting sense of linguistic equivalence between barbarian and Greek, they imply an area of discrepancy. Rather than explaining, they make things more difficult. In these cases the histōr starts from a Greek word or expression, which by itself denotes the foreign phenomenon in an approximate way. He then makes the required linguistic adjustment by qualifying the Greek term with a description and gives the precisely accurate term, necessarily foreign. So, concerning the bituminous oil found in Ardericca of Cissia (by the way: we call it “petroleum”), Herodotus says: “this oil (ἔλαιον) … the Persians call it rhadinakē: it is black and has a heavy smell.” 
The discourse pattern is here similar to that of the cases of mononumia (‘single-nameness’) in the Odyssey. There is no human word to denote the plant with black root and white flower the gods call moly because men do not know the phusis of this plant.  Similarly, the lack of a Greek counterpart for rhadinakē, corresponds to a gap in the knowledge of the Greeks. The word bekós (2.2) can be immediately turned from Phrygian into the Egyptian or Greek equivalent of “bread,”  but objects that are peculiar to certain lands or societies are likely to have only one name. The histōr, who has been there (whether in a literal, figurative, or rhetorical sense), knows the object as well as its name, which he occasionally offers in a gloss. 
A look at the Indian fragments of Ctesias gives us a sense of Herodotus’ moderation.  The overwhelming majority of exotic animals, plants, foods, weapons, and other artifacts in the Histories remain nameless. Glosses that increase strangeness by adding a foreign word are less frequent than familiarizing analogies with objects the audience would recognize. The narrator will say, for example: “they have a legume in a pod of the size of a millet seed … .” He mentions no special word for the thing so described. 
In some instances, Herodotus provides the foreign term in order to restore the dignity of native names and things in the face of Greek carelessness and contempt. When he discusses the barges which the Egyptians use on the Nile, he starts with the generalized Greek word for boats (ploia); he then goes on to explain how they are built flat and with no sides, with boards of acacia wood and papyrus, and how they are pulled upstream from the shore and sail downstream drawn by a raft; finally, he mentions the proper Egyptian term baris and draws attention to it (“for this is the name of these boats” 2.96.5). The question of the name does not come up, for example, for the collapsible leather boats of Assyrians, although they are also described at length and given extraordinary importance (1.194). But in the case of the baris, we know that Herodotus’ fifth-century audience knew the word, if not details about the boat it denoted. In tragedy baris is simply a barbarian ship, not specifically for cargo transport on the river, and not even always Egyptian. The brutal Egyptian herald in the Suppliants keeps ordering the women onto the baris. In the Persians, the Elders lament:By describing and naming the Egyptian boat, Herodotus, once again, corrects the Greeks and refines their approximate and ethnocentric knowledge of foreign things, which comes out in a misuse of language.
Ξέρξης μὲν ἄγαγεν ποποῖ
Ξέρξης δ’ ἀπώλεσεν, τοτοῖ
Ξέρξης δὲ πάντα ἐπέσπε δυσφρόνως
Ξέρξης δ’ ἀπώλεσεν, τοτοῖ
Ξέρξης δὲ πάντα ἐπέσπε δυσφρόνως
Xerxes led, woe! Xerxes brought ruin, woe! Xerxes pursued all things insanely with his sea-faring barques. 
An inverse display of Greek linguistic ethnocentrism noted by the narrator has to do with crocodiles. In this case the Greeks are at least imprecisely familiar with the exotic thing, but call it by the wrong name. In Egypt crocodiles are not a merely a picturesque feature of the landscape. Herodotus gives all sorts of zoological information on these beasts—defamiliarizing through description, one might say in this case—and he especially emphasizes their size and awesome nature. In Egypt, depending on the region, crocodiles are either considered sacred and worshipped or loathed and treated like enemies. At the end of this passage Herodotus provides the Egyptian name with a correction that reveals why he objects to the Greek term:
However they are not called “crocodiles,” but khampsai. It was the Ionians who named them “lizards” (κροκόδειλοι) likening their appearance to the lizards which in their country are found in stonewalls.
The Ionian word krokodeilos, in the sense of “crocodile” rather than “lizard,” occurs in the Histories for the first time but is by now evidently a part of the Greek language as the only lexical option for denoting these animals.  The narrator has been relying on it all along and will continue to do so throughout his logos. Herodotus’ tacit acceptance of convention in this case recalls the programmatic statement where he begrudgingly concedes that he will, after all, use “Europe,” “Asia,” and “Libya” as the traditional names of the three continents, in spite of the fact that he finds these epōnumiai (‘given names’) absurd. 
The names of the continents represent the unsigned legacy of an inexplicable tradition. In the case of “crocodiles,” the namegivers’ identity and motivations are more transparent. Ionian Greeks resident in Egypt and people of that sort, both with the intention to diminish the foreign object and out of ignorance of its phusis (which the histōr undertakes to correct: 2.68.1), have “compared big things with little ones” thoughtlessly and without apology.  The result is a clear case where Greek does not possess the correct verbal imitation of the pragma (‘thing’), but only a misrepresentation. The histōr offers the Egyptian term champsa, with additional defamiliarizing effect, as the right name.  This passage exemplifies the polemic stance Herodotus assumes against the simplified knowledge the Greeks have constructed to deal with the overwhelming strangeness and magnitude of Egypt (see e.g. 2.15.1). In another context, according to his more usual procedure of making things easier for his audience to apprehend, he is quite willing to say that Libyan crocodiles, of a smaller species, are very similar to lizards. 
Orientalism and anti-orientalism
While ethnographic logoi provide terms for animals, plants, and artifacts in a variety of barbarian languages, foreign words occur in the historical narrative predominantly in reference to Persian weapons, articles of clothing, and social or political institutions.  Herodotus’ normal practice is to name foreign institutions in Greek, no matter how different they are from anything for which the Greeks have a specific name. The Persian term satrapeiē is offered in a gloss only when a region is first mentioned in the Histories as a fiscal unit of the Persian empire (1.192.2), and then once more at the beginning of the description of Darius’ reorganization of the provinces (3.89.1). Just as Herodotus’ logos will travel through “cities” (1.5.3), or Thracian tribesmen are “citizens,” so a Persian satrapy is regularly denoted with the term nomos (‘district’) or the more politically charged arkhē (‘rule’).  Herodotus’ unifying strategy is ideologically significant. By minimizing the linguistic discrepancy between barbarians and Greeks, he encourages the analogy between their respective historical destinies.
A peculiar Persian institution plays an important role in the Histories: the system of rewards for meritorious individuals. In the story of the self-mutilation of Zopyrus an ethnographic gloss states that “among the Persians benefactions advance a man to greatness” (3.154.1).  The Samian Syloson, who had the good luck to give his cloak to an obscure royal guard named Darius, was appointed tyrant of Samos after the latter became king. Coes, Histiaeus, Mascames, Boges, and Xenagoras received similar honors in exchange for their services.  In the Greek world a person may enjoy the status of benefactor vis-à-vis a city, just as it is the city that awards the aristeia for valor on the battlefield.  At Sparta, the agathoergoi (‘benefactors’) are, in Herodotus’ definition, a board of five citizens who for one year “are sent here and there to do errands for the state” (κοινόν, 1.67.5). In Persia, however, what the Greeks call agathoergiē (or euergesiē) is good service directed to the person of the king. For all the honors it entails, here the status of benefactor marks the individual not as a free citizen but as a subject. 
The Persian name of this institution appears once in the Histories, in connection with two Ionians from Samos who distinguished themselves for bravery at Salamis. These men deserve special mention, says the narrator, because one of them was later rewarded with the tyranny of Samos and the other was inscribed (ἀνεγράφη) in a special list of benefactors and given a large territory. The status of benefactor is, in other words, an official position: “In Persian (Περσιστί) the benefactors of the king are called orosangai” (8.85.3). Herodotus’ gloss underlines the cultural anomaly of a Greek who becomes part of the Great King’s highest-level retainers for fighting on his behalf against other Greeks in the most important battle of the Persian Wars.
In the ethnographical sections, glosses introducing foreign terms constitute an integral part of Herodotus’ objective, non-narrated, narrative in the present tense concerning foreign cultures and phenomena.  A statement giving the name of a certain type of boat not to be found in Greece is on a continuum with the description of what that boat looks like. In the course of the historical narrative, on the other hand, the appearance of foreign words, whether unmarked or mediated by a gloss, is more conspicuous and likely to raise the issue of orientalism. This term was first employed by Edward Saïd to denote western stereotyped representations of an Eastern setting, which suggest that certain exotic peculiarities go hand in hand with moral shortcomings as the prerogatives of a different world.  The application of the concept to ancient Greek texts (not discussed by Saïd) has sometimes lacked subtlety but is nevertheless apt, even in cases when the overall message is not—or not predominantly—derogatory to non-Greeks. In interpreting Aeschylus’ Persians, to take the most notable example, scholars hold a range of different views: while to some the play comes close to representing a “big racist myth,” others see it as a striking demonstration of “the Athenians’ ability to explore the suffering of war thorough the eyes of their greatest enemy.”  No matter what position we take between these two extremes, however, few would deny the presence in the Persians of orientalistic elements. These counterbalance the universality of the law of divine retribution for hubris by reminding the audience that in this paradigmatic case, at any rate, both the hubris and its retribution happened to “them” and not to “us.”
The foreignness of Xerxes’ invading army in the Persians is partly rendered linguistically, through lists of barbarian-sounding proper names.  In Herodotus, the catalogue of the same force bristles with “native” (ἐπιχώριον) clothing and equipment, sometimes denoted with foreign or loan words. The Caspians are armed with akinakai;  Arabs and Thracians wear zeirai, apparently a sort of cloak (7.69.1, 7.75.1). The Sacae, a Scythian population, have kurbasiai (pointed turbans) and “battle axes (called) sagaris.”  The Persians use “floppy caps called tiaras,” anaxurides (trousers) and wicker gerra “instead of shields.”  The last item is an important index of the inferiority of Persian light armor at Plataea and Mycale.  Persian anaxurides, made of leather, connote primitivity to the Lydian Sandanis, but by the time of the Ionian revolt they seem to represent Eastern luxury. Aristagoras mentions them in conjunction not with tiaras, but with kurbasiai as a sign of inefficiency on the battlefield. 
Herodotus’ catalogue of Xerxes’ force stands midway between ethnography and history, emphasizing internal ethnic diversity as much as overall otherness with respect to the Greeks.  In other parts of the narrative of the expedition against Greece, however, the orientalistic tradition of the Greek representation of the Persians is unmistakable. When he feels so inclined, Xerxes rides in a harmamaxa, a light covered chariot, which is also used to transport the gold-decked concubines and the retinue of the Persian commanders. This piece of furnishing is ridiculed in Aristophanes’ Acharnians; it almost certainly represents the “wheeled tent” mentioned in the Persians.  In the context of the conflict between Greece and Persia, Herodotus uses the term barbaros more frequently than in the earlier books;  he reports two oracles that call the Persians barbarophōnoi (8.20.2; 9.43.3); and he uniquely qualifies, in his own voice, the flogging of the Hellespont as barbaros in the sense of “barbaric” (7.35.2). A follow-up of that scene contains another orientalistic use of a Persian word. Perhaps regretting his previous desecration, Xerxes throws into the Hellespont precious offerings, including “a Persian sword they call akinakes” (7.54.2). Elsewhere in the Histories, Persian akinakai are precious gifts for the friends of the king or booty for the victorious Greeks. They are used to dispatch a dishonest satrap and cut off the ears and noses of royal guards. 
Herodotus’ dialogism provides, to be sure, compensatory elements. When the Persian army arrives to Achaean Halos in Thessaly, he reports at some length the local story (ἐπιχώριον λόγον) of Athamas’ murder of Phrixus with the pretext that the guides told it to Xerxes “wishing to inform him of everything” (7.197.1). As a consequence of Athamas’ crime, they say, the Achaeans sacrifice the oldest sons of the family that descend from Phrixus if they disobey the prohibition from entering their lēiton (‘people’s hall’), the term by which “the Achaeans call the prutanēion (‘town-hall’)” (7.197.2). It has been suggested that Herodotus makes Xerxes pass through Halos precisely in order to have the opportunity to make this digression.  The almost unheard of case of human sacrifices among the Greeks parallels those made by the Persians during the march.  Here Xerxes listens to details of the Achaean ritual, shows his reverence, and moves on. In space and narrative, he has already entered Greece and is approaching Thermopylae. Yet he is still, as Herodotus implies linguistically and otherwise, in a foreign world.
Even if not all that is alien and brutal is also barbarian, however, considerable corruption exists at the Persian king’s court. In the last Xerxes narrative in the Histories, an ethnographic gloss places adultery, female power, and bloody excess in the context of the nomos of a royal feast. This passage contains a translation in two stages, as in some of the glosses to proper names we have already seen.  The marked introduction of the foreign word is followed by an etymology that renders its expressiveness back into Greek:
[Amestris] waits for the day in which her husband Xerxes is due to offer the royal banquet—this banquet is given once a year on the king’s birthday; the name of this banquet in Persian ( Περσιστί ) is tukta and in Greek ( κατὰ [τὴν] Ἑλλήνων γλῶσσαν ) telēion (‘perfect’): on that occasion only, the king anoints his head with perfumes and gives presents to the Persians; having waited, then, for this day, Amestris asks Xerxes to be given the wife of Masistes as a present.
Tukta is apparently another transparent word, close to tuktos (τυκτός [τευχ-]).  Both the Homeric tuktos and the classical word telēios (τελήιος), which Herodotus gives as a translation for tukta, are used to describe either finished and well-made good things or “perfect” evils.  The result of this beautiful royal festivity is in fact complete disaster. The king feels bound by custom (hupo tou nomou) to comply with the request of his wife because whatever one asks at the royal banquet must be granted (9.111.1). Amestris proceeds to mutilate her rival by cutting off her ears, lips, tongue, and breasts and throwing the last to the dogs. The victim’s husband, Masistes (who is also Xerxes’ brother), runs off to Bactria with the intention of provoking a revolt against the king, but he and his children are killed en route, so that his house is entirely destroyed (9.111–113).
The tukta gloss closely connects the ethnographer’s descriptions of customs and the historian’s reconstruction of the past. The banquet is a key-event of Persian culture, a feature in some sense symbolic of what the Persians are (or rather, of what they have become after the foundation of the empire by Cyrus), and a means of displaying their civilization vis-à-vis the rest of the world.  The occasions and etiquette of Persian dinners, how much and what they eat, what the Persians themselves think of these things, and how the Greeks regard them are recurrent topics both in the Persian ethnography and in the historical narrative.  The tukta is the non-plus ultra of Persian banquets, celebrated on the most solemn of birthdays. It is also an occasion, however, on which the king appears with his head uncovered and smears it with perfumes; that is to say, he steps down somewhat from his exalted position. He is still the king because he can fulfill all wishes, but he is less than king since he cannot refuse to do so. The ethnographic-linguistic note does more than underline the decadent luxury of the Persians, according to the most elementary level of the stereotype. It cooperates with the historical narrative of this particular banquet to convey the ambiguity between stately protocol and royal capriciousness, between the Persian king’s omnipotence and his ultimate lack of control.
For Herodotus, the instability of order and justice in Persian culture derives from the monarchy and its nomoi. The ideological opposite of the tukta is the Persian postal system, which Herodotus describes in a gloss that leaves the monarchy as much as possible aside. In Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, the beacon-to-beacon fire that announces the king’s return from Troy is qualified by the adjectival form angaros (ἄγγαρος), with a sinister reference to the barbarism of the doomed house of Atreus (282). Herodotus gives the noun angarēion (ἀγγαρήιον) for the relay of couriers used to convey official communications across the huge distances of the empire. The gloss intervenes between Xerxes’ dispatch of news of the disaster of Salamis and their arrival to Susa. In contrast with the popular jubilation at Xerxes’ capture of Athens, the narrative describes the mourning in terms that recall the extravagant and womanly lamentations in Aeschylus’ Persians.  Precisely at this humiliating narrative moment for the Persians, the histōr reestablishes the representational equilibrium by describing the messenger system. Persian ingenuity, efficiency, endurance, and dedication—all the qualities the Persians did not, could not, display at Salamis—are embodied in this institution, a collective Persian invention (τοῖσι Πέρσῃσι ἐξεύρηται) that suggests a superior counterpart of Greek professional messenger guilds.  The run of negative sentences emphasizes a cooperative effort surpassing all standards of excellence:Finally, by a metanarrative counter-move, the institution is returned to its owners and dignified with its proper term: “The Persians call this course of horse-post angarēion” (8.98.2).
No mortal being is swifter than these messengers. This is how this system has been devised by the Persians: for they say that according to how many days it takes to make the journey, a certain number of horses and men is stationed at the interval of one day’s journey. Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor night holds them back from the accomplishment of their duty.
8.98.1–2A gloss of comparison makes the foreign phenomenon both familiar and endearing by assimilating it to a Greek religious and athletic context:
The one who runs first then passes the message on to the second, the second to the third, and so on it passes from the one to the other, just as among the Greeks there is the torch-race they run in honor of Hephaestus. 
Orientalism is woven into the very fabric of the contemporary Greek representation of barbarians, and Herodotus knows how to exploit it for didactic aims. But his Persian couriers are remarkably “Western,” and, as it turns out, we have enlisted them twenty-four centuries after the Histories to represent ourselves. 
Language and relativity
Herodotus assumes a large sphere of equivalence among different foreign languages and Greek, yet he goes even further by establishing the autonomous validity and intelligibility of barbarian speech both within and outside that sphere. Cultures are entitled to their names, and Greek replacements are often wrong. One can correctly translate into Greek names that signify logoi and evaluate whether they describe reality in an accurate way. Foreign phenomena unknown to the Greeks need to be explained and sometimes given their accurate native name. To translate or explain is neither problematic nor difficult, but it requires the appropriate adjustment of the available Greek terms to the realities of a different world.
A word for word translation may serve to minimize cultural or ideological discrepancies, as in the case of satrapies/arkhai.  Other times it throws it into sharper relief (‘benefactors’/orosangai). In a few precious cases, moreover, linguistic heteroglossia is an opportunity for questioning Greek cultural knowledge and breaking away from its constraints. A gloss that intervenes to explain a word in a preceding utterance enhances the sudden sense of discovery of a different and instructive world-view. 
On the footsteps of Hecataeus of Miletus, Herodotus discusses matters of chronology with an Egyptian priest, who shows him the colossal wooden statues of many generations of piromis priests. The foreign word is focalized through the local guide, but the narrator immediately explains that: “Piromis is in Greek kalos kagathos” (2.143.3). The equivalence seems simple enough but the proportions are wrong, just as the Egyptian standard of measure (the schoenus) is many times in excess of the Persian and Greek measures.  The narrative has already qualified the translation of piromis in advance by placing side-by-side Hecataeus, a Milesian kalos kagathos (i.e., a member of the Greek aristocracy) and the Egyptian piromis priest. To the first, who boasted sixteen generations of ancestors leading up to a god, the latter showed physical proof of 345 with no divine figure in sight. Instructed by the experience of Hecataeus and perhaps less genealogically privileged than he, the histōr of the Histories knows better than to enter a competition with the Egyptian priest: he relates his predecessor’s experience, corroborates the evidence of the piromis statues, and translates as best he can, although not without irony, the piromis name.  Language can only reflect what a society knows, and what the Greeks know is based on the manipulation of a narrow experience, in time as in space. 
Foreign cultures also confound Greek subjectivity when they display their own. The Egyptians, who write numbers and letters from right to left (ἀπὸ τῶν δεξιῶν ἐπὶ τὰ ἀριστερά) instead of from left to right, say they do things “rightly” (or “to the right”: ἐπιδέξια ποιέειν) and the Greeks wrongly (or “to the left”: ἐπαρίστερα).  They also subdivide political space into Egyptians and everyone else, just as the Greeks have created the antithesis between Greeks and non-Greeks. After reporting an Egyptian prophecy that refers to the Persians as “barbarians,” the narrator translates: “The Egyptians call ‘barbaroi’ all those who do not speak the same language as themselves” (πάντας … τοὺς μὴ σφίσι ὁμογλώσσους) (2.158.5). Elsewhere, the text cites the Persians as claiming dominion over the “the barbarian peoples” of Asia (1.4.4); but does the expression come from the narrator or does it reproduce the sources’ speech? If the latter is the case, are the Persians referring to the non-Persian nations of Asia or are they adopting their interlocutors’ point of view (“We are barbarians and other barbarian nations are our affair”)? In the Egyptian passage, the narrator eliminates all ambiguity and deconstructs the Greek fantasy about non-Greeks applying the term barbaroi to themselves.  His translation of the Egyptian oracle alerts the listener about the existence of some Egyptian word semantically equivalent—and perhaps phonetically similar—to the Greek barbaros, but not applicable to the same referent.  On the Greek side, Spartan idiom confuses barbaros (non-Greek) with xenos (non-Spartan stranger and guest).    Among non-Greeks, the Egyptians call barbaroi, or ‘noise-makers’, all non-Egyptians, including the Greeks.154
As we have already mentioned, Plato’s theoretical statements about the equal validity of Greek and non-Greek languages in the Cratylus seem connected to his rejection elsewhere of the whole Greek-barbarian antithesis: the non-Athenian character named Xenos in the Statesman argues in fact that this subdivision is based entirely on the existence of the word barbaros, and not on anything objective or real.155 In a more empirical way, simply by translating words, Herodotus makes comparable points: barbarian speech shows both that the notion of the linguistic handicap of non-Greeks is invalid and that the barbarian/non-barbarian antithesis is relative. Like the name of the continents and “crocodile,” so the conventional term barbaros is not “correct.” It does not convey an appropriate representation of its object, in whatever language.
[ back ] 1. Campos Daroca 1992.76. These translations have been discussed by Hartog 1988.237–248 (“Translating, Naming, Classifying”); Harrison 1998 (with complete lists); Chamberlain 1999.
[ back ] 2. See below, p. 53 and note 106. Marked introductions of proper names are of course usually not as significant. A historical work is bound to mention foreign names of persons and places and the marked form for introducing these (e.g. 2.156.1: “an island called Chemmis”; 155.2: “the name of this city is Buto”) is extremely common and merely constitutes a metanarrative mediation by which the narrator acknowledges the audience’s lack of familiarity with the subject. See, however, 2.164.2, 4.18, 7.64, 89.2 for more notable cases. In some important instances a barbarian proper name is given only to be translated back etymologically into Greek (2.30.1, 4.27, 4.52.3, 4.110.1), and those will be discussed below, pp. 36–38.
[ back ] 3. 2.143.4; see also 2.158.5 (below, p. 64). More approximately: 4.7.3 with 4.31; 4.27.4; 4.155.2–3 (below, pp. 35, 82). Cf. Prince 1977.2–3 for modern examples.
[ back ] 4. For translation in the strict sense vs. explanation or the giving of an alternative name, see Cham-berlain 1999. These glosses are about twenty-five. I am not here counting eponymic derivations of ethnic names (e.g., “The Persians derive their epōnumiē from Perse,” 7.61.3), also frequent in the logographers (e.g. Hecataeus, FGrHist 1 F 266, 307, 308). These often occur in conjunction with glosses that record the ancient name or a name-change of a people or place; see 1.171, 173.2, 3, 7.170.2, the numerous instances found in the catalogue of Xerxes’ force (e.g. 7.61.2), and the notation on the name of the Ammonians at 2.42.5. Müller 1972.113. Campos Daroca 1992.92–95.
[ back ] 5. 2.156.5. See also 1.199.3 (“the Assyrians call Aphrodite Melitta”); 2.42.5 (“the Egyptians call Zeus Amon”); 2.46.4 (“in Egyptian this goat and Pan are called Mendes”; 2.79.3 (“in Egyptian Linus is called Maneros”); 4.59.2 (“in Scythian, Hestia is called Tabiti, Zeus . . . Papaios, Earth Api, Apollo Goetosyrus, Heavenly Aphrodite Argimpasa, Poseidon Thagimasadas”) The foreign name appears first at 2.144.3 (“Osiris is Dionysus in the Greek language”). At 4.180.2 (“the indigenous goddess whom we call Athena”) the Libyan name is not given; see also 2.122.1 (“he went down to what the Greeks believe to be Hades”). Linforth 1926. Lattimore 1939.
[ back ] 6. 1.192.3; 2.6.3; 2.168.1; 3.89.2; 5.52.6–53; 6.42.2. Chamberlain 1999.275–276.
[ back ] 7. For Greek into Greek translations, see above, p. 14 and note 37.
[ back ] 8. 2.171.1 (“a ritual that the Egyptians call mysteria”); 3.31.2 (“Royal Judges”); 3.79.3 (magophonia); 4.31 (“feathers”), 4.181.4 (“Spring of the Sun”), and perhaps, though in some of these cases the namers may be Greek, 2.36.3 (“emmer”); 2. 62.1 (“Lamplight festival”); 2.72 (fish called “lepidotos”); 2.112.2 (sanctuary of “Foreign Aphrodite”); 2.148.1 (“City of the Crocodiles”); 2.164.2 (Makhimoi); 4.107 (Melankhlainai); 4.52.1 (“Mother of Hypanis”; see below, p. 44); 4.192.3 (species of Libyan mice given in Greek), 7.188.3 (“Ovens” of Mount Pelion). Especially interesting in this category are the glosses at 3.93.2=7.80 (anaspastoi: see Asheri 1988b.158) and 7.83.1, cf. 7.211.1 (athanatoi: see Pagliaro 1954.146–151). See also, possibly, 1. 132.3 (“theogony”), 2.158.5 (“barbarians”). The possibility that 4.20.1, τὰ καλεύμενα βασιλήια, may be rendering a native term in Greek translation is discussed by Kothe 1969.75–79. How and Wells 1928.ii.303, following Stein interpret the reference to the blind slaves of the Scythians (4.2, 4.20.1) as Herodotus’ misunderstanding of the etymology of the Scythian word for “slave”; the narrator, however, does not present the word tuphlos (τυφλός) as a translation.
[ back ] 9. Other than the related epōnumia. See above, p. 11 and note 24.
[ back ] 10. On these terms, see Hollmann 2000, who shows that in two cases in Herodotus the term epos is used in reference to a single word, but both times it actually denotes an utterance that implies a whole proposition. The first case is “bekós”in the story of Psammetichus’ experiment (called an epos at 2.2.4); see above pp. 19–23). The second is Asmach at 2.30.1 (for which see below, pp. 37–38). Hollmann 2000.220–221. In the fourth century, the term rhēma began to denote a “verb” as opposed to a “noun” (onoma). We find this distinction, for example, in Plato’s Cratylus 425a, although elsewhere in the same dialogue (399b) rhēma is a “phrase” in contrast to onoma, a single word. See LSJ ad voces. See also Aristotle’s definitions (Poetics 1457a; On Interpretation 16a–b) distinguishing names from verbs (Kraus 1987.45). For rhēsis, see esp. below, p. 40.
[ back ] 11. Guthrie 1969.204–219. Burkert 1985.127. Hartog 1988.243. Rochette 1996.100. Barney 2001.4–6. In describing the Atarantes, Herodotus distinguishes the category of proper names of individual persons from that of ethnic names (4.184.1).
[ back ] 12. See e.g Thucydides 3.82.4–5; Plato Cratylus 411d–421b.
[ back ] 13. See esp.4.65.2, ταύτην ἀνδραγαθίην λέγοντες.
[ back ] 14. Hartog 1988.237–238.
[ back ] 15. Dunatai (δύναται) is the clearest marker of a translation (Chamberlain 1999.275). But with formulae of the type “x in such and such a language is y” or “such and such a people call such and such a thing x,” it is not always easy to tell whether translation or name replacement is intended. See e.g 3.26.1: “the city of Oasis” among the Ammonians, “a place which is called in Greek (κατὰ Ἑλλήνων γλῶσσαν) ‘Islands of the Blessed’.” Is the Greek denomination an entirely new invention? Or is it supposed to represent the translation of “Oasis” (on the real etymology of which, see Asheri 1990.243–244 and How and Wells 1928.1.262–263) or of some other local name?
[ back ] 16. Iliad 1.403–404; see also 2.813–814 (human name Batieia, i. e. “Hill of the Thicket”/divine name “Tomb of Myrine”); 20.74 (divine name Xanthos/human name Scamander). The type of dinumia at 14.291, where the gloss concerns what we would call a common noun and records the double name of a type bird (divine name khalkis/human name kymindis), is only paralleled to a limited extent by the crocodile gloss in Herodotus (2.69.3, quoted below, p. 55). On Homeric translations, see Güntert 1921; Lazzeroni 1957; Watkins 1970; Strauss Clay 1972, who also cites the parody of the Iliadic practice in Phaedrus 252c; Kraus 1987.27–28. We should add Homer’s explanation of the term “ichor” in Iliad 5.339–342. For translations in the Odyssey, see below, pp. 52–53. Homeric “divine” names are “charged,” semantically marked, Greek words. Watkins 1970.2–3.
[ back ] 17. This obviously does not apply to divinities that both Greeks and barbarian peoples worship, but by different names (see above, p. 31 and note 5); in such cases Herodotus uses either denomination. Another exception, when it is the Greek rather than the foreign name that Herodotus always uses in the narrative, occurs at 4.6.2: “The common name of all is Skoloti from the name of their king; but the Greeks call them Scyths.” The text has been found unsatisfactory because the king in the story is named Kolaxais (see Macan 1889.1.4 for possible solutions). Skoloti may have actually been the name only of the autochthonous, non-nomadic tribes living west of the Borysthenes, who were subjected by the incoming Royal nomads (cf. 4.20,110). Kothe 1969.37–40. Notations on how peoples other than the Greeks call a foreign ethnic group occur e.g. at 7.63, 64.2, 72.1. For cases when Herodotus only mentions what “the Greeks call” a foreign object, personage, place, or people without objection and without giving a local or more correct term, see 2.15.3 (“what the Ionians call the Delta”), 2.112.1 (Proteus), 4.8.2 (Erythea), 4.33.3 (Hyperborean girls Hyperoche and Laodice), 4.199.1 (region of Cyrene called the Hills), and 2.105 (Sardonic linen; see end of note 19 below). The Greeks are also probably the name-givers at 2.125.1 (“stairs” or “platforms” of a pyramid). For Panhellenic expressions in general (what “the Greeks call so and so”), see above, p. 14 and note 36.
[ back ] 18. See above, p. 25. Cf. 1.72.1 (with its counterpart at 7.72.1) and 7.63 where two different people are “called Syrians by the Greeks.”
[ back ] 19. According to Evans 1985, Myrsilus (from the Hittite Mursilis) may have been the right name for the Lydian king, but in Greek it became identical to that of the famous tyrant of Mytilene berated by Alcaeus, and to Herodotus it probably sounded too Greek. Candaules is authentic Lydian and perhaps a cult title of Hermes and of Heraclid kings. See Pedley 1974. A somewhat different case where Herodotus “corrects” a possibly accurate Greek conventional term for something foreign occurs at 2.105: “the Colchian linen is called ‘Sardonikos’ by the Greeks, while that from Egypt is called ‘Egyptian’.” The Greek name obscures the Colchian provenience of the first type of linen, which for Herodotus constitutes proof of the common origin of Egyptians and Colchians. Though the connection with Colchis may actually be encoded in the name Sardonikos (Lloyd 1988.26), neither the narrator nor his audience would have been aware of this.
[ back ] 20. Campos Daroca 1992.83. Cf. for example Herodotus’ caution when he gives the Bias/Pittacus alternative (1.27.2), and his statement about learning the names of the 300 at Thermopylae, though he will not include these in his narrative (7.224.1).
[ back ] 21. Cf. Strabo 11.11.5 and 11.14.13 for Greek interpretations of names of foreign rivers. Campos Daroca 1992.111.
[ back ] 22. E.g. Artaphrenes (5.25) suggesting artiphrōn (ἀρτίφρων) ‘sound of mind’ transliterates Artafarna. Hollmann 1998.131. See the list in Armayor 1978 with folk-etymologies; Georges 1994.53 and note 30.
[ back ] 23. 9.25.1. How and Wells 1928.II.294. Chamberlain 1999.277.
[ back ] 24. On transparency, see Chamberlain 1999.276–278. Cf. above, p. 12 and note 28; below, pp. 48–50.
[ back ] 25. 4.155.2 (see below, pp. 79–83). On the real etymology, see Masson 1976 who argues that Herodotus is mistaken and the name, found in other parts of Greece, is really Greek and derives from battarizō (βατταρίζω). See also the Perinthian Greeks’ obliviousness to the non-Greek meaning of Paion at 5.1.2–3 (below, pp. 69–70).
[ back ] 26. On names as logoi, cf. e.g. Plato Cratylus 396a.
[ back ] 27. E.g. Theogony 197–201; Iliad 22.506; Odyssey 19.406–409, cf. 1.62, 5.340, 423, 9.275. Forbes 1933.105–106; Stanford 1952; Nagy 1976; Kraus 1987.30–41, 136–146; Peradotto 1990 esp. 94–170; Baxter 1992.113n30. For the practice among early Greek natural philosophers to base physical theories on word etymologies, see Lloyd 1966.71. Heraclitus DK 48, for example, connects biós (βιός ‘bow’), the weapon that brings death, to bíos (βίος ‘life’) to signify the doctrine of the coincidence of opposites. See Kahn 1979.201 and see also Heraclitus DK 32 and 56.
[ back ] 28. Cratylus 391b–421e. For the notion of “agonistic display,” see Barney 2001.60–80, who recognizes the humorous tone of the section but rejects the notion of parody supported by Baxter 1992.86–163. See also Kretzmann 1971; Levin 1995; 1997.46–50; Sedley 1998.
[ back ] 29. Barney 2001.49–50. Cf. Barney 1992.107–163.
[ back ] 30. Cratylus 395b–c. Socrates often mentions that in order to decode names one must perceive the phonetic transformations that have occurred in the language: 399a–b, 414b–d, 418b–419b. Baxter 1992.57–58.
[ back ] 31. Thus at Cratylus 397c–d, the word θεοί is said to derive from the constant motion of the sun, moon, earth, stars, and sky, which represented the only divinities recognized in primitive Greece. On Herodotus 2.52.1, see above, p. 12.
[ back ] 32. Barney 2001.71–72. Sedley 1998.142.
[ back ] 33. As it happens, Herodotus’ translation of Exampaios has been given some credit. See Macan 1895.1.36; Corcella 1993.174–175. Foreign etymologies are relatively infrequent in other texts. See e.g. the etymology of the name of the Mysians from the Lydian name for a kind of beech-tree, in Xanthus the Lydian FGrHist 765 F 15. Thucydides gives the etymology of Zancle, the ancient name of Messina, “so called by the Sicels because the place is shaped like a sickle, and the Sicels call the sickle zanklon” (6.4.5). Cf. also Hell. FGrHist 4 F 111 (and F 71 for a Greek etymology of a foreign name).
[ back ] 34. On the meaning of epos in Herodotus as an authoritative, coded, or otherwise significant utterance that is substantially, if not formally, equivalent to more than a single word, see Hollmann 2000, esp. 221–222 for this passage. Cf. also above, pp. 31–32 and note 10.
[ back ] 35. Cf. Diodorus Siculus 1.67; Strabo 16.4.8. For the controversy of whether Asmakh might actually derive from an Egyptian word for “left,” see Lloyd 1976.128–129.
[ back ] 36. Hartog 1980.240. The Greeks interpreted their own term “Amazon” as meaning “breast-less,” or at least “lacking one breast”; this resulted in reports about their alleged custom of cauterizing the right breast for the sake of freedom of movement in handling weapons (Hellanicus, FGrHist 4 F 45; Hippocrates Airs, Waters and Places 17; Diodorus 2.45.3); Tyrrell 1984.49. In Herodotus, the Amazons look boyish from a distance, but a closer look apparently reveals nothing abnormal about their breasts (4.111.1). On the Amazons, see further below, pp. 72–73.
[ back ] 37. On the scientific value of Herodotus’ etymology, see Macan 1895.1.18. Corcella 1993.256. According to Chamberlain 1999.279, Herodotus is suggesting the transparency of the second element spou as the reverse of ōps in a compound of the type of Kuklōps. Explainable peoples’ names follow either the descriptive model (Arimaspoi, Melankhlainai, Androphagoi) or the eponymic model. Campos Daroca 1992.91–92.
[ back ] 38. For Herodotus’ rejection of Ocean, see 2.23, 2.21, 4.2, 4.36.2. Factual information transmitted by poets is suspect in Herodotus. The existence of the river Eridanus flowing into the North Sea is rejected on the basis of its Greek name, which reveals it was “made up by some poet” (3.115.1–2). For the Hyperboreans, the main authorities are, beside the Delians (4.33.1), the Greek poets Homer and Hesiod (4.32). Romm 1989. Similarly, the fictional existence of the Arimaspoi is maintained by a poet, Aristeas of Proconnesus, who wrote an epic about them which featured the Hyperboreans as well (4.13). Asheri 1990.333–334.
[ back ] 39. See above on the “names” of the gods, pp. 11–13 and note 22.
[ back ] 40. Campos Daroca 1992.113–114.
[ back ] 41. The analogy between oracles and names emerges from the references to the role of divine inspiration in namegiving or the interpretation of names in Plato’s Cratylus (396d, 428c). On Herodotus’ ability to interpret metaphors, see also below, pp. 67–69.
[ back ] 42. On Herodotus’ use of eikazō (εἰκάζω) ‘liken’ to indicate a deliberate metaphor cf. 2.69.3, 9.34.1 and especially 7.162.2. Munson 2001.83n114.
[ back ] 43. As have some modern scholars: see Benardete’s reference to “the Scythians’ failure to see a likeness as likeness” (Benardete 1969.100–110).
[ back ] 44. Corcella 1984.83, 94–96; 1993.258, 325. Other Scythian metaphorical names appear at 4.52.1 and 59.2 (below, p. 44). For the peculiarities of Scythian communication, see also West 1988; Munson 2001.114–115.
[ back ] 45. See Thucydides 4.40.2: τὸν ἁτρακτον, λέγων τὸν οἰστόν. See above, pp. 17–18 and note 52.
[ back ] 46. The dog was an animal sacred to the Medes (see 1.140 and How and Wells 1928.1.108), and the name of the cowherd, Mithradatas, is similarly connected to the god Mithra. Historically, the legend about the supernatural childrearing of the exposed Cyrus must have preceded the “human” version which Herodotus reports as more accurate.
[ back ] 47. For a political instance of “empty” name, see the “so-called tomb” (καλεόμενος τάφος) of the Aeginetans built at Plataea just for show, and containing no bones (9.85.3).
[ back ] 48. As Cambyses finds out with the two Smerdis, similar in body as well as in name, and the two Ecbatana (3.61.2; 64).
[ back ] 49. See e.g. the Linus song (2.79). On Prodicus’ study of synonymy in Greek, see Aristotle Topics 112b 22. Classen 1976.231–234.
[ back ] 50. E.g. 4.184.1: the Atarantes have no personal names (i.e., no names exist for individuals that nevertheless exist). Absurd names are for Herodotus those of the continents (4.45.2–4); see above, p. 39; below, pp. 43, 55, 66. People attribute different meanings to a name (“Egypt,” 2.15.3). Places and peoples frequently change their names (e.g., the Athenians, 8.44.2; Calliste/Thera, 4.147.4). An obvious case of adventitious names is represented by the animal names Cleisthenes gives to the new Sicyonian tribes (5.68.1). On the instability of the meaning of abstract words, see Thucydides, 3.82.4–8.
[ back ] 51. Barney 2001.51.
[ back ] 52. See above, pp. 19–23.
[ back ] 53. Cratylus 429a–431e, 433d–e; cf. 400d–401a. The distinction between the descriptive and the prescriptive aspects of the argument is emphasized by Baxter 1992.9–12.
[ back ] 54. 429b–c; Hermogenes is represented as the direct opposite of Hermes: he is apparently not successful in business (383b–384c) and not a good contriver of speech (407e–408b). It is ironically fitting, of course, that a proponent of the absolutely arbitrary nature of language should bear such an ill-suited name.
[ back ] 55. Cratylus 388b–c; 434b–435d.
[ back ] 56. 4.45.5. See above, p. 39.
[ back ] 57. See e.g. Burkert 1985.126–127; Baxter 1992.95–96.
[ back ] 58. For the different shades of meaning of terms such as orthoepeia and orthotēs, according to Protagoras, Prodicus, and Democritus, see Classen 1976; Thomas 2000.230.
[ back ] 59. Cratylus 392b–e, in reference to Iliad 22.506.
[ back ] 60. Outside of the linguistic sphere, orthos is part of Herodotus’ vocabulary of corroboration. For orthos in reference to correct opinions, logoi, measurements and other data in Herodotus, Democritus, sophists and fifth-century medical writers, see Thomas 2000.228–235; as referring to correspondence in Herodotus, aside from the linguistic application of the term, see Darbo-Peschanski 1987.183.
[ back ] 61. Cf. 4.86.4, where the statement that the Palus Maeotis is the “mother of Pontus” may have been suggested by an etymology of Maiētis (Μαιῆτις; perhaps the Greek rendition of a “transparent” Scythian word) from maia (μαῖα). Macan 1889.1.61–62. Corcella 1993.303.
[ back ] 62. For other foreign words given in translation, see above, p. 31 and note 8.
[ back ] 63. Macan 1895.1.40. Mora 1985.50–51.
[ back ] 64. Divine names are an especially frequent object of etymology in other Greek texts. See e.g. Cratylus 395e–396d, 400d–409b. On Plutarch’s Greek etymologies of Egyptian divine names in the Isis and Osiris, see Donadoni 1947.
[ back ] 65. Linforth 1926.8. See above, p. 31 and note 5.
[ back ] 66. Cf. the reservations made by Socrates in Cratylus 400d–401a: we do not know anything about the gods and their real names; we can only discuss the names by which we call them according to nomos and which men originally invented on the basis of human doxa (‘opinion’).
[ back ] 67. For a discussion of 2.3.2, see Munson 2001.163–166. Thomas 2000.280 proposes a different interpretation.
[ back ] 68. For the etymology of Zeus (Ζεύς) from zēn (ζῆν) ‘live’, see Cratylus 396a–b and, implicitly, Aeschylus Suppliants 584–585.
[ back ] 69. As Burkert observes (1985.126), the existence of different languages is not emphasized in Greek thought even by those who could have used it to bolster their argument against a theory of natural language (e.g. Democritus DK 68 B26).
[ back ] 70. 389d4–390a2; 394a–c. In the case of the third character of the dialogue, Hermogenes, the idea of the validity of a barbarian name is of course implicit in his belief that the right name of a thing is whatever an individual or city wants to call it (384c8–385a5).
[ back ] 71. 262c–263a. Miller 1980.20–24. Baxter 1992.15, 44–45 juxtaposes the Statesman and the Cratylus on this issue; Braund 1998.178n29 cites the passage from the Statesman in his discussion of Herodotus. See also below, p. 66. In Protagoras 341c a characteristic of barbarians seems to be the incorrect use of names.
[ back ] 72. Cratylus 383a4–b2; Baxter 1992.136.
[ back ] 73. 409a5–410a5, 416a, 425e. Lejeune 1940–1948.49–50; Rochette 1996.96–97.
[ back ] 74. See above, Introduction, pp. 1–3.
[ back ] 75. 4.183.4. See above, p. 25.
[ back ] 76. Trojan Women 989–990. Guthrie 1969.207n2. Cf. the famous ῾Ελένας, ἕλανδρος, ἑλέπτολις of Aeschylus Agamemnon 689–690.
[ back ] 77. For the intentionality and classificatory function of names, see Morpurgo Davies 2000.20–25. Campos Daroca 1992.114–122.
[ back ] 78. 1.139; 4.184.2–3. See above, p. 26. Hornblower (2000.134) counts 940 personal names in Hero-dotus as opposed to 473 in Thucydides.
[ back ] 79. Sulzberger 1926; Nagy 1979.146n2; Svenbro 1993.69–79. In Herodotus, the father of the Spar-tan Archias was named Samius after his grandfather, who had died at Samos (3.55.2). For theophoric names, see Parker 2000.
[ back ] 80. Sulzberger 1926.399–400 gives examples from epic where, on the contrary, this type of name is frequent (e.g. Telegonus ‘Born faraway’). In Herodotus, names deliberately imposed by the parents to describe a child include Oeolycus ‘Lamb among Wolves’, derived from an utterance, or epos, of his father Theras (4.149.1; see Hollmann 2000, note 24) and, according to the Greeks, Battus ‘Stammerer’ (4.155; see above, p. 35 and below, pp. 82–83).
[ back ] 81. For the omen-nomen ideology in other ancient cultures, see Cardona 1976.133–139. On the connotative function of proper names, with references to modern philosophical theory and its application to the names of the Odyssey, see Peradotto 1990.94–119. For the extent to which Thucydides reflects contemporary interest in proper names, see Hornblower 1992.151–154; 2000.136–137.
[ back ] 82. Apparently a common pun, even in Aristides’ lifetime; see Plutarch Aristides 3.
[ back ] 83. 7.225, cf. 125. Immerwahr 1966.260–261; Georges 1994.141–142; Munson 2001.246. See also Demaratus (6.63.3). Other cases in Immerwahr 1967.294–295; Campos Daroca 1992.122–134; Harrison 1998, note 145; Chamberlain 1999, note 43; Hollmann 1998.126–130; Hornblower 2000.134–135. According to the same principle, homonymy may be a sign of substantial similarities between the name-bearers. See e.g. especially 5.69.1 and 67.1 (Cleisthenes), arguably 2.100.2 (Nitocris), and 3.61–80 (Smerdis, with the added factor of the semantic transparency of the name, akin to smerdaleos [σμερδάλεος]); Armayor 1978.156; Chamberlain 1999.293.
[ back ] 84. See 6.50.3 (Krios); 7.180 (Leon); 9.91 (Hegesistratus), discussed below.
[ back ] 85. Cf. 1.152.1–2, 3.46 and 5.49–50. Notice Leotychides’ double use of the address xeine (ξεῖνε; cf. above, p. 17 and note 50).
[ back ] 86. Stadter 1992.792n29.
[ back ] 87. 9.100–101. Munson 2001.194–195.
[ back ] 88. Wood 1972.141–142n55; Stadter 1992.790; Harrison 1998; Chamberlain 1999.267–272.
[ back ] 89. Chamberlain 1999.271. Munson 2001.201–205.
[ back ] 90. It occurs only in Archilochus fr. 62 Diehl. See Etymologicum Magnum 376, 52 ff. and Cook 1907. See also Wood 1972.141–142n55.
[ back ] 91. See above, p. 12 and note 28. For other Persian personal names the Greeks evidently regarded as transparent, see above, p. 35, note 22.
[ back ] 92. Cook 1907. His emendation is accepted by Stadter 1992.790 and tentatively Harrison 1998, ch. 4 “The imagined relationship between Greek and foreign languages.”
[ back ] 93. Chamberlain 1999.267–272; he is, as far as I know, the only one who has explored this problem.
[ back ] 94. Chamberlain 1999.266–267, 282–286.
[ back ] 95. 5.58, where we find both rhuthmon (ῥυθμόν) and metaruthmisantes (μεταρυθμίσαντες). Chamberlain 1999.266–267, 284.
[ back ] 96. Chamberlain 1999.286.
[ back ] 97. Herodotus’ translations at 6.98.3, no matter how we switch them, are in reality wrong (Macan 1889.1.334; Stein 1894.3.195, How and Wells 1928.2.105, Legrand 1948.100, cf.1932.74); but this is, as usual, beside the point.
[ back ] 98. Munson 2001.203–205.
[ back ] 99. The suggestion by Harrison 1998 (ch. 4, “The imagined relationship between Greek and foreign languages”) that Herodotus may consider the Persian names “a distorted, corrupt version of Greek” is unjustified. Elsewhere in Herodotus native names are presented as the most accurate.
[ back ] 100. In Greek these are regarded by Socrates of the Cratylus either as derived from a barbarian language or as “primary words” that imitate their objects phonetically rather than through representation (422a–d2).
[ back ] 101. See R. Waterfield’s glossary of foreign words in Herodotus in Dewald 1998.742–744.
[ back ] 102. Greek-derived words in a foreign language are only mentioned in those cases when heroes give their (presumably Greek) names to foreign dynasties (e.g. 1.7.2). Non-linguistic debts incurred by the Greeks toward foreign countries are also reflected in language otherwise than through the borrowing of the foreign name of the thing, e.g. in the case of “Phoenician letters,” a denomination which the narrator considers entirely “fair“ (dikaion, not orthon: 5.58.2). The word aigis (αἰγίς), though Herodotus does not say it is of Libyan derivation, somehow proves to him that the aegis of Greek statues of Athena represents a Libyan borrowing (4.189.2). A lexical exchange among non-Greek cultures is noted in a gloss which recognizes the name of a people north of the Ister, the Syginnae, both in a noun used by a Celtic tribe north of Massalia and in one with different meaning used in Cyprus: “for the Ligyes north of Massalia suginnae are shopkeepers, and for the Cyprians that is the name for spears” (5.9.3).
[ back ] 103. 6.119.4. The word elaion (ἔλαιον) normally means olive oil, as one can see from the restricted use of the word at 1.193.4. Benveniste 1966 surveys Persian words in Herodotus, distinguishing “borrowings,” i.e., loan-words which will become part of the Greek language (often found for the first time in Herodotus), from Iranian words, like this one, which are reproduced as such in the text and are never incorporated into the Greek language. See also Harrison 1998, ch. 1 with notes 30 and 32. The distinction is not crucial for my purposes: when presented in a gloss, even a loan word counts as a genuine foreign word. We should notice, however, that genuine foreign words are more frequent in the ethnographic sections, while loan-words tend to appear especially in the historical narrative.
[ back ] 104. See Strauss Clay 1972, esp. 129–131, on Od. 10.305 (cf. 12.61) and the similar case at 5.339–342. For the different model of dinumia (‘double-nameness’) in the Iliad, see above, p. 33 and note 16.
[ back ] 105. See above, p. 21 and note 10.
[ back ] 106. In addition to the glosses discussed in the text in this and in the next sections (2.65.5, 2.69.3, 7.57.3, 9.110.2, 8.98.2, 1.192.2 and 3.89.1, 8.85.3, 2.143.3), see 1.105.4 (“those [affected by the female disease] whom the Scythians call enareis,” rendered with androgunoi at 4.67.2); 2.77.4 (Egyptians “eat a bread made of barley which they call kyllestis”; also in Hecataeus FrGrHist 1 F 322); 2.81.1 (Egyptians “wear tunics made of linen with tassels around the ankles which they call kalasiris”); 2.92.2 (“water lilies the Egyptians call lotus”); 2.94.1 (“the inhabitants of the marshes use an oil from the fruit of the castor, which the Egyptians call kiki”); 3.12.4 (“they wear caps [called] tiaras,” a loan-word); 4.23. 3 (the Bald Men live off a “tree called pontikon . . . the juice of the fruit is called askhu”); 4.53.3 (in the Borysthenes there are “invertebrate fish called antakaioi”; according to Chamberlain 1999 note 29 this is another transparent word, related to the Greek anakantha [ἀνάκανθα] ‘invertebrate’ given in the text); 5.16.4 (in Lake Prasias in Thrace “there are two species of fish which they call paprax and tilōn”); 9.32.1 (Mardonius’ army included “the Calasiries, as they are called, who were armed with knives and were the only Egyptian fighting men”; cf. 2.164–168). Among the animals at 4.192 only the name of a species of mice is given in Libyan (4.192.3, zegeries [ζεγέριες], probably authentic according to Masson 1968.86 and note 11), and then translated into the Greek word bounoi (βουνοί) ‘hills’, for which see Cardona 1976.22. See also the explanation of the Phoenician Pataikoi at 3.37.2, and the gloss at 2.73.1 giving the name of the phoenix (on the Egyptian derivation of this word, see Lloyd 1976.317). Only rarely do foreign words simply appear in an ethnography with no metanarrative mediation. These include the mysterious hualos (ὕαλος) of Ethiopian burials (3.24.1,2); the Scythian or Massagetan battle-ax, sagaris (σάγαρις 1.215.1, 4.5.2, 70, cf. 7.64.2); the Egyptian boat baris (βᾶρις 2.41.4 and 5; 2.60.1 and 2, 2.179); and the (in this case Scythian) sword akinakēs (ἀκινάκης 4.62). Baris is eventually glossed at 2.96.5 and akinakēs at 7.54.3 (as a Persian word): see below, pp. 54, 59–60. Some of the unglossed words of Egyptian derivation in Herodotus (see the list by McGready 1968) had probably become a part of Greek vocabulary, e.g. litron (λίτρον 2.86, 2.87).
[ back ] 107. Campos Daroca 1992.150–151. We do not know to what extent and in what way foreign words appearing in other ethnographic writers were mediated by glosses. See e.g. Hecataeus FGrHist 1 F 284 (kupassis, a Persian dress) and Ctesias FGrHist 688 F41 (sarapis, Persian trousers).
[ back ] 108. 3.100. See especially the string of comparisons at 2.92.2–4 (five in eight lines). On these comparisons, see especially the discussions by Hartog 1988.225–337, Corcella 1984.68–93, Munson 2001.80–90. That the number of foreign words in Herodotus is relatively small has been noted by Linforth 1926.11; Harrison 1998, ch. 1, “Herodotus’ knowledge of foreign languages.” The combination of foreign naming and descriptive comparisons appears in Ctesias FGrHist 688 F 45.
[ back ] 109. Persians 550–553; cf. 1075. Suppliants 836, 873, 882; Broadhead 1960.147; Bacon 1961.15, 20; E. Hall 1989.78. See also Euripides Iphigeneia at Aulis 297. Froidefond 1971.96.
[ back ] 110. Unfortunately we cannot be sure of R. Ellis’ emendation χάμψα in Suppliants 878, in the Dana-ids’ apostrophe of the Egyptian herald, who is trying to herd them into the baris (see preceding note). Murray 1955 app. Cf. Bacon 1961.21; Friis Johansen, and Whittle 1980 III.209.
[ back ] 111. 4.45.5. See above, pp. 39, 43. For the term epōnumia, see note 24 on page 11.
[ back ] 112. The narrator of the Histories does this only with great caution: cf. 2.10.1. Lloyd 1976.310 cites other linguistic examples of what he calls the “light-hearted attitude which the Greeks often adopted to things Egyptian”: ostriches (megaloi strouthoi [μεγάλοι στρουθοί] ‘big sparrows’), obelisks (obeliskoi [ὀβελισκοί] ‘little spits’), underground tombs (saringes [σάριγγες] ‘pipes’), and pyramids (puramides [πυραμίδες] ‘wheatcakes’). Froidefond 1971.122–123 attributes these dismissive names to the defensive snobbery of Greek residents in Egypt, while the Ionian researchers tended to magnify Egyptian things. Herodotus replaces the normal Greek term katarraktēs (καταρράκτης) with the more dramatic katadoupoi (κατάδουποι) and does not use obeliskos, but obelos. Froidefond 1971.123. Greek re-naming in Egypt is also exemplified by the islands Chios, Lesbos, Samos, etc. on the Nile mentioned by Hecataeus (FGrHist 1 F 310). Another case when the Greek name of a small animal has been assigned to a different foreign animal seems to be the Indian giant “ants” (murmēkes [μύρμηκες]) of 3.102.2. Corcella 1985.69.
[ back ] 113. A somewhat similar manifestation of ethnocentrism as reflected in language is displayed by the Ethiopian king when he calls bread kopron (κόπρον 3.22.4). But as the heirs of a Greek idealizing tradition about people on the margins, the Ethiopians can legitimately laugh at the practices of mainstream cultures. Romm 1992.54–60, esp. 59.
[ back ] 114. 4.192.2: τῇσι σαυρῇσι ἐμφερέστατοι.
[ back ] 115. The names of Egyptian castes are given in Greek, with the notice that these groups “take their ounomata from their occupations” (2.164.1), though we are also told that “the warriors are called Calasiries and Ermotybies” (2.164.2, cf. 9.39.1).
[ back ] 116. The term nomos (always used of a foreign land) causes ambiguity, e.g. at 9.116.1, where it designates only the Hellespontine area of Thrace, a Persian territorial subdivision smaller than a satrapy. See Asheri 1988b.157. Both terms arkhē and nomos are also used to denote Egyptian or even Scythian territories. See Powell 1938 ad voces. The governor of a Persian province is called huparkhos (ὕπαρχος) or arkhōn (ἄρχων), the Persian loan-word satrapēs (σατράπης) first appearing in Xenophon (Asheri 1988a.378). For the term poliētai (πολιῆται ‘citizens’), see 5.7, 16.2.
[ back ] 117. An ethnographic gloss is the explanation of a local custom, in the present tense, inserted in a narrative of past events. Munson 2001.39–40.
[ back ] 118. 3.139–140, 149, cf. 6.25. 4.97; 5.1; cf. 6.30.2. 7.106–107. 9.107.3. Cf. 7.39.2, 9.18.3 and Thucydides 1.128.4 and 129.3.
[ back ] 119. E.g. 8.136 (Alexander of Macedon) and 8.11.2. See also the ceremony of awarding honors to citizens who have deserved well of the state at the Great Dionysia in Athens discussed by Goldhill 1990.104–105.
[ back ] 120. The historical role of the institution of the orosangai in securing the Achemaenids’ hold on the Persian aristocracy and strengthening their monarchical rule is explored by Briant 1988.97–100. Gould 1991.17–18 (references in his note 51) discusses the institution in the larger context of Herodotus’ representation of gift reciprocity. Gift-giving among the Persians and between Persians and Greeks is discussed by Mitchell 1997.111–133, though from later evidence.
[ back ] 121. A narrative is “non-narrated” or, to be more accurate, minimally narrated when it approaches the pure recording of facts and we least feel the presence of the narrator as a more or less overt mediator between the world of the narrated and the recipient of the narrative. See Chatman 1978.146–266; Genette 1980.212–262.
[ back ] 122. Saïd 1978.5–9 and passim.
[ back ] 123. The last quotation is from Dué 2005. I am borrowing “big racist myth” from John Marincola (who used the expression ironically in conversation to characterize an extreme position to which he does not subscribe). In the last fifteen years scholars have tended to emphasize anti-Persian elements in the play (see especially E. Hall 1989.70–72, 76–79; E. Hall 1996; Georges 1994). Others argue for a more complex message where Aeschylus represents the defeated Persians as “other,” while at the same time encouraging his Athenian audience to identify with them. See especially the discussion by Dué 2005; Loraux 2002.42–53.
[ back ] 124. Above, pp. 2–3 and note 12.
[ back ] 125. 7.67.1; the sword is not named but described as part of the equipment of the Persian contingent (7.61, and cf. Pollux I 138; cited by Legrand 1951.91). In an ethnographic context it also appears as a Scythian sword (4.62.2, 3; 4.70). For the use of the word as a Persian sword at 7.54.2 and other narrative passages, see below and note 133.
[ back ] 126. 7.64.2. Also mentioned in the Massagetan and Scythian ethnographies: 1.215.1, 4.5.3, 4.70.
[ back ] 127. 7.61.1. Wearing of tiaras make Persian skulls soft (3.12); a tiara is worn by the sacrificer in the Persian ethnography (1.132.1); made of gold, it is a royal gift (8.120). Cf. Persians 661. On the Persian “Median” or “rider custom,” see Miller 1997.156–157.
[ back ] 128. 9.61.3, 62.2, 99.3, 102.2 and 3. See Flower and Marincola 2002.214, with figure on frontispiece.
[ back ] 129. 1.71.2 (cf. 3.87, the trousers of Darius’ groom); 5.59.3. To the Greeks, “anaxurides emblematized all that was foreign about Iranians” (Miller 1997.185).
[ back ] 130. On the character of the Herodotus’ catalogue, see Payen 1997.102–103.
[ back ] 131. ἀρμάμαξα: 7.41, 83.2, 9.76.1; cf. Acharnians 69–70; Aeschylus Persians 1000–1001. Miller 1997.62.
[ back ] 132. Levy 1991.195 and note 11 counts 24 instances of the stem barbar- up to 5.23, and 179 in the rest of the work.
[ back ] 133. 8.120, 9.80.2; 3.118.2; 3.128.5. See also 9.107.2. Cf. above, p. 59 and note 125. On the literary and archaeological evidence for Persian akinakai, see Miller 1997.46–48.
[ back ] 134. Macan 1908.1.192.
[ back ] 135. 7.114. Human sacrifice is also perhaps recorded for the Persians at 7.180, and see 1.86.2. It is otherwise a custom only in Herodotus’ ethnographies about Massagetae (1.216.2), Padaean Indians (3.99), Scythians (4.62, 71–72), Taurians (4.103), and various Thracian tribes (4.94, 5.5, 9.119). It is normally regarded, at any rate, as a quintessentially barbarian practice: Plutarch On Superstition 171B–E and Nikolaidis 1986.138. On the Achaean episode in Herodotus 7.197, see Crahay 1954.89–91.
[ back ] 136. E.g. 4.110.1; see above, pp. 37–38.
[ back ] 137. Chamberlain 1999.276n29.
[ back ] 138. See LSJ ad voces. Most scholars interpret the terms in the Herodotean passage as referring to the magnificence of the occasion. However Benveniste 1965.485 interprets it as “‘acquitté’ ou ‘acquis’”; Masaracchia 1978.210 considers it a reference to the completion of the year by the king.
[ back ] 139. For the notion of “key-event,” see Fetterman 1989.5. Clifford Geertz’s analysis of the Balinese cockfight as revelatory of “what being a Balinese ‘is really like’” develops the same concept though he does not use the term (Geertz 1973.412–453, esp.417).
[ back ] 140. In the Persian ethnography, see the section on birthdays and banquets at 1.133 and cf. the ethnographic gloss at 3.79.3. In the historical narrative banquets mark crucial moments at the beginning of Persian history (1.125–126) and at the end of their imperialistic dream with the defeat of Plataea (9.82). Other instances: 1.207.6–7 with 211, 7.119, 7.135.1. In Thucydides 1.130.1 Pausanias “keeps a Persian table.”
[ back ] 141. τοὺς κιθῶνας κατερρήξαντο πάντες, βοῇ τε καὶ οἰμωγῇ ἐχρέωντο ἀπλέτῳ (8.99.2); cf. the Chorus’ description of the mourning of Persian women in Persians 121–134, 531–538, which will be reproduced by the womanly Elders themselves and Xerxes. Georges 1994.92, 102–104. For tearing of robes, see Persians 125, 199, 468, 537–538.
[ back ] 142. E.g. the Athenian and Argive hēmerodromoi (6.105.1, 9.12.1) and the Talthybiadai of Sparta (7.134.1).
[ back ] 143. On the rhetorical genre of this analogy, see Hartog 1988.226–227.
[ back ] 144. An excerpt from Herodotus 8.98.2 has been inscribed above the 280-foot frieze of the New York U.S. General Post Office Building, which opened to the public on Labor Day, September 1914. (The building has since been named the James A. Farley Building, and will soon be renamed again and, alas, no longer be mainly a post-office). Mr. William Mitchell Kendall of the firm McKim, Mead and White, the architects who planned the building, supplied the Herodotean passage in his own English translation. I am grateful to Mr. Joseph H. Cohen, curator of the New York Museum of Postal History, for providing me with this information. Though the ideological bases for Mr. Kendall’s choice for the inscription are unknown, the allusion to the tradition of the Pony Express in the American West seems to me unmistakable, confirming the sense of self-identification elicited by this passage among North-American readers. The word angarēion has had a more orientalistic development, for which see Asheri and Corcella 2003.98: it came to denote forced labor in Greek, the Roman cursus publicus in Latin (angaria, angarium), and corvée (forced labor) or abuse in European languages (e.g., Italian angheria).
[ back ] 145. This happens also when a Greek word is given as a foreign name, but with a meaning somewhat different than it normally has in Greek. See 2.171: “They give near this lake representations of his (i.e., Osiris’, not named) passion, which the Egyptians call ‘mysteries’.” Here Froidefond 1971.191 maintains that a discrepancy is implicit between the way in which the Egyptians use the linguistic equivalent of the Greek word μυστήρια and the Greek use, as in “Eleusinian Mysteries” (Contra Lloyd 1976.279, who regards this as a straightforward case of interpretatio Graeca on Herodotus’ part). Similarly, the plant “which the Egyptians call lotus” (2.92.2, where λωτός is supposed to represent an Egyptian word, not a translation: see Lloyd 1976.171) is different from the Cyrenaic lotus assumed as more familiar to the audience at 2.96, the fruit of which is described at 4.177.
[ back ] 146. See above, p. 30 and note 3.
[ back ] 147. The Egyptian schoenos “means” (dunatai) sixty stades, the parasang thirty stades (2.6.3). Herodotus gives the measurements of Egypt in skhoenoi, which he says is the standard of the magnate landowner, while the rich man measures his land in parasangs, the man of modest property in stades, and the land-poor in fathoms (2.6.1–2).
[ back ] 148. Thissen 1993.243.
[ back ] 149. Froidefond 1971.137–139; Hunter 1982.50–72. For a skeptical view on the historical authenticity of Herodotus’ piromis episode, see West 1991.145–149.
[ back ] 150. 2.36.4. Is this a value judgment Herodotus translates with a pun, or is the Egyptian terminology for “right” and “left” the opposite of that of the Greeks? For the first interpretation, see Lloyd 1976.36–37, following Spielberg 1921. The second, suggested by Vasunia 2001.137, causes problems (what did Herodotus think the Egyptian words for “right” and “left” sounded like?), but is also possible.
[ back ] 151. A pervasive phenomenon in drama and elsewhere: e.g. Aeschylus Persians 635; Euripides Hecuba 481–482; Xenophon Anabasis 1.7.3–4. In Herodotus, aside from 2.158.5 and (perhaps) 1.4.4, the word barbaros is only used by Greeks, and always to denote the foreigner in relation to Greeks or Greek-speakers.
[ back ] 152. According to Lloyd 1988.157–158, the words by which the Egyptians referred to foreigners did not encode the notion of language difference; this makes it all the more remarkable that a Greek author would have assumed that to have been the case. Cf. Thissen 1993.243. For foreign words given by Herodotus already translated into Greek, see above, p. 31 and note 8. On the national languages used by oracles and on the histōr’s competence to understand them, see below, pp. 78–83.
[ back ] 153. 9.11.3. See above, pp. 16–18.
[ back ] 154. That this episode in Herodotus undermines the Greek-barbarian antithesis was already noticed by Baldry 1965.21. Braund 1998.178.
[ back ] 155. 262c10–263a. Baxter 1992. See above, p. 45. Braund 1998.178n29.