Homer, Iliad 9.340-3



“Are the sons of Atreus the only men who love their wives? A man who is good and sound of judgment loves his wife and feels a certain concern for her, just as I loved Briseis from the bottom of my heart, even though I carried her off with my spear.”

ἦ μοῦνοι φιλέουσ᾽ ἀλόχους μερόπων ἀνθρώπων
Ἀτρεΐδαι; ἐπεὶ ὅς τις ἀνὴρ ἀγαθὸς καὶ ἐχέφρων
τὴν αὐτοῦ φιλέει καὶ κήδεται, ὡς καὶ ἐγὼ τὴν
ἐκ θυμοῦ φίλεον δουρικτητήν περ ἐοῦσαν.

The ‘Homeric’ War of Frogs and Mice, Part 1: The Proem (1-8)


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As I begin from the first page, I pray that the chorus
comes from Helikon for the sake of the song
I have just set down on the tablets at my knees;
a song of limitless strife–the war-rousing work of Ares–
because I hope to send to the ears of all mortal men
how the mice went forth to best the frogs
in imitation of the deeds of the earth born men, the giants.
Or so the tale went among men. It has this kind of beginning.

1 ᾿Αρχόμενος πρώτης σελίδος χορὸν ἐξ ῾Ελικῶνος
2 ἐλθεῖν εἰς ἐμὸν ἦτορ ἐπεύχομαι εἵνεκ’ ἀοιδῆς
3 ἣν νέον ἐν δέλτοισιν ἐμοῖς ἐπὶ γούνασι θῆκα,
4 δῆριν ἀπειρεσίην, πολεμόκλονον ἔργον ῎Αρηος,
5 εὐχόμενος μερόπεσσιν ἐς οὔατα πᾶσι βαλέσθαι
6 πῶς μύες ἐν βατράχοισιν ἀριστεύσαντες ἔβησαν,
7 γηγενέων ἀνδρῶν μιμούμενοι ἔργα Γιγάντων,
8 ὡς λόγος ἐν θνητοῖσιν ἔην• τοίην δ’ ἔχεν ἀρχήν.

The Batrakhomuomakhia is a mock-epic from antiquity–dated variously from the late Archaic age to the Hellenistic period. Using a pastiche of Homeric style and surprising subject (a battle between tribes of frog and mice), this parody is at once highly ‘literary’ and baldly silly. Of course, we love it.

We love it so much that we’ve been working on the text, a translation, and something of a commentary.  Since we’re already having fun with other oddities and obscurities like the history of Apollonius of Tyre, it made sense to start putting some of the work on the Batrakhomuomakhia here.  Look for more fun as the friendship of a mouse and frog ends in a sudden tragedy compounded by an interspecies blood-feud and the callous machinations of the gods.

A limerick in the spirit of Palaiophron:

The Homeric Battle of Frogs and Mice
is not really Homer but it’s still quite nice.
You needn’t suffer to learn
that there’s kleos to earn
And you may find yourself reading it twice.

Hipponax fr. 182: The Wise Man’s Wife (Hipponactic!)


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“The strongest marriage for a wise man
Is to take a woman of noble character—
This dowry alone safeguards a home.
[But whoever takes a fancy woman home...]
<sees his house fall into ruin>
The wise man has a partner instead of a mistress
A woman with a good mind, reliable for a lifetime.”


γάμος κράτιστός ἐστιν ἀνδρὶ σώφρονι
τρόπον γυναικὸς χρηστὸν ἕδνον λαμβάνειν·
αὕτη γὰρ ἡ προὶξ οἰκίαν σώιζει μόνη.
ὅστις δὲ †τρυφῶς τὴν γυναῖκ’ ἄγει λαβών

<                                 >

συνεργὸν οὗτος ἀντὶ δεσποίνης ἔχει
εὔνουν, βεβαίαν εἰς ἅπαντα τὸν βίον.


This fragment has missing lines and a textual problem in line four. But it is clear that it is similar in sentiment to ideas expressed about marriage in Hesiod and other archaic poets (see below for two characteristic passages from Hesiod). I made up an English line to fill out the general idea of the missing Greek. There’s nothing pretty about it!


Continue reading

Homer, Iliad 8.145-156


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Diomedes, that expert of the war-cry, answered him thus:

“Yes, sir, you have indeed spoken truly, but this dread burden sets upon my heart and spirit, that one day, Hector will say when he is boasting among the Trojans, ‘The son of Tydeus, in his fear of me, retreated to his ships!’ Thus will he boast; and on that day, I hope the earth will swallow me in her dusty jaws.”

Nestor, the Gerenian horseman answered him thus:

“What a thing to say, thou burning-hearted son of Tydeus. If Hector should call you a knave or a coward, neither Trojan nor Dardanian will believe him, nor especially the wives of the great-spirited Trojan soldiers, since you have cast their once-stout husbands into the dirt.”

Τὸν δ’ ἠμείβετ’ ἔπειτα βοὴν ἀγαθὸς Διομήδης·

ναὶ δὴ ταῦτά γε πάντα γέρον κατὰ μοῖραν ἔειπες·

ἀλλὰ τόδ’ αἰνὸν ἄχος κραδίην καὶ θυμὸν ἱκάνει·

῞Εκτωρ γάρ ποτε φήσει ἐνὶ Τρώεσσ’ ἀγορεύων·

Τυδεΐδης ὑπ’ ἐμεῖο φοβεύμενος ἵκετο νῆας.

ὥς ποτ’ ἀπειλήσει· τότε μοι χάνοι εὐρεῖα χθών.

Τὸν δ’ ἠμείβετ’ ἔπειτα Γερήνιος ἱππότα Νέστωρ·

ὤ μοι Τυδέος υἱὲ δαΐφρονος, οἷον ἔειπες.

εἴ περ γάρ σ’ ῞Εκτωρ γε κακὸν καὶ ἀνάλκιδα φήσει,

ἀλλ’ οὐ πείσονται Τρῶες καὶ Δαρδανίωνες

καὶ Τρώων ἄλοχοι μεγαθύμων ἀσπιστάων,

τάων ἐν κονίῃσι βάλες θαλεροὺς παρακοίτας.

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 4.1-25: The Merits of a Spoonful of Sugar


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This passage was famous long before Mary Poppins stole its theme….


“I cross the roadless places of the Pierides

where no earlier step has fallen. I am pleased to find untouched springs

and to drink deep, and to pick new flowers

to fashion into a well-marked crown for my head

from fields where the Muses have covered no man’s temple.

First, this is because I teach about weighty matters

and I try to free the mind from the tight knots of religion;

And then because I elicit lucidity from dark affairs

as I adorn my whole song with the Muses’ charm.

This too does not seem to be separate from reason:

For just as doctors when they try to administer

bitter medicine to children will first spread around

the top of the cup the pleasing touch of sweet honey

so that the unsuspecting youth is deceived

Right to the lips, until they finish drinking down

medicine’s bitter bite, merely tricked but not betrayed;

then he returns to health because of this secret.

So now I, because this lesson often seems to be

rather harsh to those who are unacquainted with it—

the very reason the crowd recoils in response—

I have decided to set out this argument in the sweet-speech

of Pierian song and just in the same way to touch it with the Muses’ honey

if there is any I am able to hold a mind to this thought

with my verses until you can perceive

the whole nature of the universe and what it is for.


Avia Pieridum peragro loca nullius ante
trita solo. iuvat integros accedere fontis
atque haurire, iuvatque novos decerpere flores
insignemque meo capiti petere inde coronam,
unde prius nulli velarint tempora musae;
primum quod magnis doceo de rebus et artis
religionum animum nodis exsolvere pergo,
deinde quod obscura de re tam lucida pango
carmina musaeo contingens cuncta lepore.
id quoque enim non ab nulla ratione videtur;
nam vel uti pueris absinthia taetra medentes
cum dare conantur, prius oras pocula circum
contingunt mellis dulci flavoque liquore,
ut puerorum aetas inprovida ludificetur
labrorum tenus, interea perpotet amarum
absinthi laticem deceptaque non capiatur,
sed potius tali facto recreata valescat,
sic ego nunc, quoniam haec ratio plerumque videtur
tristior esse quibus non est tractata, retroque
volgus abhorret ab hac, volui tibi suaviloquenti
carmine Pierio rationem exponere nostram
et quasi musaeo dulci contingere melle;
si tibi forte animum tali ratione tenere
versibus in nostris possem, dum percipis omnem
naturam rerum ac persentis utilitatem.


And you knew this was coming:

Xenophon, Oeconomicus 1.8: Even Huge Tracts of Land Can Be Worse than Worthless


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“Land is certainly not an asset if it creates poverty instead of revenue.”


Οὐδὲ ἡ γῆ μέντοι χρήματά ἐστιν, εἴπερ ἀντὶ τοῦ τρέφειν πεινῆν παρασκευάζει.


Where would Xenophon fit in this conversation (he certainly has a lot to say about marriage…)?



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