In the spirit of what can arguably be viewed as an established tradition in the fi eld of travel writing theory, the story revealed in the following pages can trace its origins to a famous classical text: Herodotus’s History.3 Considered by many the Ur-travel writer of Western Europe, Herodotus is often praised for the powerful language of his perceptive descriptions of foreign lands and for the subtle criticism of a worldview that depended on clear distinctions between “civilized” and “barbaric” peoples. Mockingly referred to as the philo-barbaros (“pro-barbarian”) by his contemporaries, today the ancient author is admired for his courageous insistence on the possibility and even necessity of merging ‘self’ (the familiar) and ‘Other’ (the strange) through the recognition of sets of subversive resemblances. For example, in the last chapter of his infl uential Marvelous Possessions,4 entitled “The Go-Between”, Steven Greenblatt marvels at Herodotus’s groundbreaking

conviction that in order to understand “the central historical achievement of his own culture”, a man “must understand alien cultures”5. The exploration of the reliability of the traveler’s excess of vision is of a special signifi cance in such a sought-after superimposition of sameness and difference: “There is in his [Herodutus’s] writing, a continuous driving out of boundaries, an interest in reaching the farthest point to which one can travel-the limit-point of eyewitness-and an interest too in what lies beyond even this boundary, the point at which eyewitness must inevitably give way to hearsay”.6 The ancient traveler enters the realm of hearsay at a specifi c point in his History: a moment that demands a “go-between” decoder of factual information, and a miraculous transformation of the narration into a metaphorical “go-between” between the Scythians and the Greeks. The anecdote is quite simple: when hard-pressed to report on the number of the nomadic Scythians, Herodotus offers instead a story about king Ariantas, who demanded that each one of his subjects bring him an arrowhead so he could determine how many warriors were under his command. Once done with the counting, he ordered that all arrowheads be melted and made into an enormous bowl, about 5,400 gallons in volume and four inches in thickness.