In Greek thought, barbaroi are utterers of unintelligible or inarticulate sounds. What importance does the text of Herodotus's Histories attribute to language as a criterion of ethnic identity? The answer to this question illuminates the empirical foundations of Herodotus's pluralistic worldview. The first translator of cultures also translates, describes, and evaluates foreign speech to a degree unparalleled by other Greek ancient authors. For Herodotus, language is an area of interesting but surprisingly unproblematic difference, which he offers to his audience as a model for coming to terms in a neutral way with other, more emotionally charged, cultural differences.
This short, sharp book is a welcome, easily-digested addition to the growing stable of recent works on language and other symbolic systems in Herodotus.
An interesting and persuasive view, expounded in four chapters (bristling with footnotes and references, often half the page) which discuss the implications of more or less every reference to language in the Histories.
Rosaria Munson is Professor of Classics at Swarthmore College.