Black Doves Speak: Herodotus and the Languages of Barbarians

  Munson, Rosaria Vignolo. 2005. Black Doves Speak: Herodotus and the Languages of Barbarians. Hellenic Studies Series 9. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

3. Herodotos hermēneus

Metalinguistic glosses

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. [15] 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.” [16] 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: [17]

The Greeks call also the Budini “Geloni,” but they are wrong (οὐκ ὀρθῶς).


Candaules, whom the Greeks call Myrsilus, was the king of Sardis …


In 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. [
18] 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. [19] Naming historical figures, places, and peoples—and doing so with the utmost accuracy—is a fundamental aspect of Herodotus’ task. [20]

Names as logoi and muthoi

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.


The 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. [
34] 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. [35] 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.

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).


Libya 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.

Metaphorical names

Correct names

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. [53] 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. [54] 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. [55] 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. [56]

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). [63] Nowhere else in the Histories does Herodotus etymologize, much less evaluate, the name of a divinity, whether in Greek or any other language. [64] 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. [65] 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. [66] 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). [67] 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. [68]

Nomen omen

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.


Giving the “right” word

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:

Ξέρξης μὲν ἄγαγεν ποποῖ
Ξέρξης δ’ ἀπώλεσεν, τοτοῖ
Ξέρξης δὲ πάντα ἐπέσπε δυσφρόνως
βαρίδεσσι ποντίαις.

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.

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.


Orientalism and anti-orientalism

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. [121] 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. [122] 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.” [123] 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.”

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. [130] 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. [131] In the context of the conflict between Greece and Persia, Herodotus uses the term barbaros more frequently than in the earlier books; [132] 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. [133]

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. [141] 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. [142] The run of negative sentences emphasizes a cooperative effort surpassing all standards of excellence:

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.


A gloss of comparison makes the foreign phenomenon both familiar and endearing by assimilating it to a Greek religious and athletic context:

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).

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.

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). [150] 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. [151] 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. [152] On the Greek side, Spartan idiom confuses barbaros (non-Greek) with xenos (non-Spartan stranger and guest). [153] [154] [155] 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.