Readers of Herodotus’s Histories are familiar with its reports of bizarre portents, riddling oracles, and striking dreams. But Herodotus draws our attention to other types of signs too, beginning with human speech itself as a coded system that can manipulate and be manipulated. Objects, gifts, artifacts, markings, even the human body, are all capable of being invested with meaning in the Histories and Herodotus shows that conventionally and culturally determined actions, gestures, and ritual all need decoding.
This book represents an unprecedented examination of signs and their interpreters, as well as the terminology Herodotus uses to describe sign transmission, reception, and decoding. Through his control and involvement in this process he emerges as a veritable “master of signs.”