The Battle of Frogs and Mice, 8: Frogs Arm While Gods Debate

In the last installment, the frogs denied any responsibility for the death of a mouse, foreswearing any chance to avoid the war…

While Frogs don armor made of leaves
against ranks of mice in acorn greaves
The gods look on in gleeful spite
at the terrible fury of frogs and mice
.

So speaking he persuaded everyone to arm themselves.
First, they covered their shins with the leaves of reeds
and they had breastplates from fine yellow beets
while they fitted the leaves of cabbage into shields
and a great sharp reed was worked as a spear for each.
Horns of polished snails covered their heads.
They stood on the high banks defending themselves
As they brandished their spears, the heart of each puffed up.

Zeus called the gods to starry heaven
and showed them the mass of war and strong warriors
so many, so great, carrying enormous spears
just as the army of Centaurs or giants had approached them.
Then laughing sweetly he asked who among the mortals
were supporters for the frogs or mice? And he addressed Athena:

“Daughter, won’t you go forth to help the mice?
For they always dance around your temple
Delighting in the smell and every kind of treat.”

So Kronos’ son said and Athena responded:
“Father I would never come to the aid of the distressed mice
because they have done me many evils
by ruining my garlands and lamps to get at the oil.
The things they do really wear at my thoughts.
They eat away at the robe which I wore myself out weaving
from tender wool and which I spun on a great warp–
they fill it with holes. The lender entrusted it to me
and it makes me his debtor, a thing horrible for the gods.
For I spun it in debt and I can’t pay it back.
But there is no way I want to help the frogs.
For these creatures are not of sound mind, but yesterday
When I was returning from war and really worn out
and needing sleep, they didn’t allow me even to snooze
because of their ruckus. And I laid there sleepless,
with a headache until the rooster crowed.
Come on, let the gods avoid helping them,
lest one of them get wounded by a sharp missile.
For they are fighting in close ranks, even if a god should near them.
Let’s instead enjoy watching this battle from heaven.”

160 ῝Ως εἰπὼν ἀνέπεισε καθοπλίζεσθαι ἅπαντας.
161 φύλλοις μὲν μαλαχῶν κνήμας ἑὰς ἀμφεκάλυψαν,
162 θώρηκας δ’ εἶχον καλῶν χλοερῶν ἀπὸ σεύτλων,
163 φύλλα δὲ τῶν κραμβῶν εἰς ἀσπίδας εὖ ἤσκησαν,
164 ἔγχος δ’ ὀξύσχοινος ἑκάστῳ μακρὸς ἀρήρει,
165 καί ῥα κέρα κοχλιῶν λεπτῶν ἐκάλυπτε κάρηνα.
166 φραξάμενοι δ’ ἔστησαν ἐπ’ ὄχθαις ὑψηλαῖσι
167 σείοντες λόγχας, θυμοῦ δ’ ἔμπλητο ἕκαστος.
168 Ζεὺς δὲ θεοὺς καλέσας εἰς οὐρανὸν ἀστερόεντα,
169 καὶ πολέμου πληθὺν δείξας κρατερούς τε μαχητάς,
170 πολλοὺς καὶ μεγάλους ἠδ’ ἔγχεα μακρὰ φέροντας,
171 οἷος Κενταύρων στρατὸς ἔρχεται ἠὲ Γιγάντων,
172 ἡδὺ γελῶν ἐρέεινε• τίνες βατράχοισιν ἀρωγοὶ
173 ἢ μυσὶν ἀθανάτων; καὶ ᾿Αθηναίην προσέειπεν•
174 ῏Ω θύγατερ μυσὶν ἦ ῥα βοηθήσουσα πορεύσῃ;
175 καὶ γὰρ σοῦ κατὰ νηὸν ἀεὶ σκιρτῶσιν ἅπαντες
176 κνίσῃ τερπόμενοι καὶ ἐδέσμασι παντοδαποῖσιν.
177 ῝Ως ἄρ’ ἔφη Κρονίδης• τὸν δὲ προσέειπεν ᾿Αθήνη•
178 ὦ πάτερ οὐκ ἄν πώ ποτ’ ἐγὼ μυσὶ τειρομένοισιν
179 ἐλθοίμην ἐπαρωγός, ἐπεὶ κακὰ πολλά μ’ ἔοργαν
180 στέμματα βλάπτοντες καὶ λύχνους εἵνεκ’ ἐλαίου.
181 τοῦτο δέ μοι λίην ἔδακε φρένας οἷον ἔρεξαν.
182 πέπλον μου κατέτρωξαν ὃν ἐξύφηνα καμοῦσα
183 ἐκ ῥοδάνης λεπτῆς καὶ στήμονα μακρὸν ἔνησα,
184 τρώγλας τ’ ἐμποίησαν• ὁ δ’ ἠπητής μοι ἐπέστη
185 καὶ πράσσει με τόκον• τὸ δὲ ῥίγιον ἀθανάτοισιν.
186 χρησαμένη γὰρ ἔνησα καὶ οὐκ ἔχω ἀνταποδοῦναι.
187 ἀλλ’ οὐδ’ ὣς βατράχοισιν ἀρηγέμεναι βουλήσω.
188 εἰσὶ γὰρ οὐδ’ αὐτοὶ φρένας ἔμπεδοι, ἀλλά με πρῴην
189 ἐκ πολέμου ἀνιοῦσαν ἐπεὶ λίην ἐκοπώθην,
190 ὕπνου δευομένην οὐκ εἴασαν θορυβοῦντες
191 οὐδ’ ὀλίγον καταμῦσαι• ἐγὼ δ’ ἄϋπνος κατεκείμην•
192 τὴν κεφαλὴν ἀλγοῦσαν, ἕως ἐβόησεν ἀλέκτωρ.
193 ἀλλ’ ἄγε παυσώμεσθα θεοὶ τούτοισιν ἀρήγειν,
194 μή κέ τις ὑμείων τρωθῇ βέλει ὀξυόεντι•
195 εἰσὶ γὰρ ἀγχέμαχοι, εἰ καὶ θεὸς ἀντίον ἔλθοι•
196 πάντες δ’ οὐρανόθεν τερπώμεθα δῆριν ὁρῶντες.

4 responses

  1. This post has got me thinking about the armour used by the mice and frogs and in particular the greaves. What set me off was this this statement from the “Leaf and Bayfield” edition of the Iliad where they say of Homeric greaves “their sole purpose was to prevent chafing of the legs by the edge of the shield”. I found that hard to believe because exposed legs must have been an easy target for a sword when the rest of the body was covered up. However the frog’s greaves, which I would take as mallow leaves, would be very soft and easily penetrated by the needles wielded by the mice. And this would back up Leaf and Bayfield. (The mice greaves were made of bean shells. But there are so many different varieties of beans it’s difficult to say whether these were hard or soft.).

    However as the shields were made of cabbage and the whole battle is a fantasy (no surely not!), I may be reading too much into it. I note that all the frog’s armour apart from the helmet is made out of stuff you can eat, adding to the comic effect.

    • I never really took the functional aspect of the armor seriously, like you, I always just considered it for its humor. But I do think that Leaf and Bayfield might be too limiting in their greave description–why can’t they protect shins from shield, sword and spear?

      (My guess is that the commentators overemphasize the chafing-protection because they assume that all readers would be surprised by it…)

    • It seems like cabbage and mallow would be too flimsy to offer substantial protection, but then again, so is a single layer of ox-hide. Perhaps they layered these things, so that, just as in Homer, the spears can penetrate through seven layers but get stopped by the last.

      Leaf and Bayfield have gone too far!

  2. Pingback: The Battle of Frogs and Mice, Part 9: Mayhem in the Melee | Sententiae Antiquae

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