Commentary on the Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 4: Lines 42-55

This is installment four of a working commentary on the Homeric Battle of Frogs and Mice. We have posted a translation elsewhere and welcome comments or suggestions on any part of this project.

42 οὐδέποτε πτολέμοιο κακὴν ἀπέφυγον ἀϋτήν,
43 ἀλλ’ εὐθὺς μετὰ μῶλον ἰὼν προμάχοισιν ἐμίχθην.
44 ἄνθρωπον οὐ δέδια καί περ μέγα σῶμα φοροῦντα,
45 ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ λέκτρον ἰὼν ἄκρον δάκτυλον δάκνω,
46 καὶ πτέρνης λαβόμην, καὶ οὐ πόνος ἵκανεν ἄνδρα,
47 νήδυμος οὐκ ἀπέφυγεν ὕπνος δάκνοντος ἐμεῖο.
48 ἀλλὰ δύω μάλα πάντα τὰ δείδια πᾶσαν ἐπ’ αἶαν,
49 κίρκον καὶ γαλέην, οἵ μοι μέγα πένθος ἄγουσιν,
50 καὶ παγίδα στονόεσσαν, ὅπου δολόεις πέλε πότμος•
51 πλεῖστον δὴ γαλέην περιδείδια, ἥ τις ἀρίστη,
52 ἣ καὶ τρωγλοδύνοντα κατὰ τρώγλην ἐρεείνει.
53 οὐ τρώγω ῥαφάνους, οὐ κράμβας, οὐ κολοκύντας,
54 οὐ σεύτλοις χλωροῖς ἐπιβόσκομαι, οὐδὲ σελίνοις•
55 ταῦτα γὰρ ὑμέτερ’ ἐστὶν ἐδέσματα τῶν κατὰ λίμνην.

42-53: These lines are omitted by the major manuscripts but are part of the prosodia Byzantina (a collection of lines considered to be interpolations). Lines 44, 45 and 47 have metrical issues. We have included the lines for their stylistic difference and interest. The content is obviously satirical and a welcome break from the previous catalogue of food. Although the speech returns to the subject of food after this section at line 54, the problematic portion adds to the characterization of Crumbthief. Fusillo 1988 argues there are good reasons to consider all of these lines inserted in the 12th century.
 
 

42 ἀπέφυγον: An Attic form. ἀπὸ does not occur in compounds with φεύγω in Homer

πτολέμοιο: πολέμου; the form is very Homeric, e.g. Il. 7.232 (καὶ πολέες• ἀλλ’ ἄρχε μάχης ἠδὲ πτολέμοιο). In the non-Byzantine segments, however, the parodist seems to prefer the other form: e.g. 123, καὶ τοὺς μέν ῥ’ ἐκόρυσσεν ῎Αρης πολέμοιο μεμηλώς,which is an adaptation of a Homeric formula (13.469: βῆ δὲ μετ’ ᾿Ιδομενῆα μέγα πτολέμοιο μεμηλώς). Both spellings coexist in Homer

ἀϋτήν: “Battle cry”; the language in this section clearly borrows from martial Homeric passages.

43 μετὰ μῶλον: “into the fray” often in the phrase “fray of Ares”( μῶλον ῎Αρηος, 18.134). For this phrase, with the verb “to go”, cf. Il. 18.188 πῶς τὰρ ἴω μετὰ μῶλον).

προμάχοισιν ἐμίχθην: “I have mixed among the forefighters” the sentiment is Iliadic, see Il. 4.354: “[You will see] the dear father of Telemachus mixing among the forefighters” (Τηλεμάχοιο φίλον πατέρα προμάχοισι μιγέντα) and 13.642 for the combination with the participle (αὐτὸς δ’ αὖτ’ ἐξ αὖτις ἰὼν προμάχοισιν ἐμίχθη)

44 ἄνθρωπον οὐ δέδια καί περ μέγα σῶμα φοροῦντα
This line is ametrical; the last three feet scan well for dactylic hexameter (περ μέγα σῶμα φοροῦντα) but the first half does not.

δέδια: Perfect of δείδω Homer has δείδια (13.49) and this poem has the lengthened περιδείδια at line 51. For δέδια, see Sophocles Oed. Col. 1469 ( δέδια τόδ’• οὐ γὰρ ἅλιον).

φοροῦντα: “bearing”, here “having” (more like ἔχοντα). For this verb as denoting a physical attribute, see the quotation of Archestratos (4th Century BCE, Sicily) in Athenaeus 1.52.12 ἤδη χρὴ γεραόν, πολιὸν σφόδρα κρᾶτα φοροῦντα “an onld man with a very gray head”.

καί περ: This combination often signals a concessive use of the participle and in Homer typically appear separate as at Il. 1.577 (“I will advise mother even though she already knows herself,” μητρὶ δ’ ἐγὼ παράφημι καὶ αὐτῇ περ νοεούσῃ). The particle περ alone can signal concession in Greek poetry. See Smyth §2083a.

45 ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ λέκτρον ἰὼν ἄκρον δάκτυλον δάκνω
This line is also ametrical (only five feet).
ἄκρον δάκτυλον: “finger tip” or “toe-tip”

46 καὶ πτέρνης λαβόμην
πτέρνης: “ham”; See above on line 29: Πτέρνα mock-epic form adapted from Lat. perna. See LSJ s.v. The lateness of this noun and its probable adaptation from Latin points to a rather late provenance for the date of this poem, especially considering the number of times it occurs (29, 37, 224).

λαβόμην: This form only occurs here. In the middle, λαμβάνω means to “keep hold of” or “to make one’s own” and takes a genitive direct object.

καὶ οὐ πόνος ἵκανεν ἄνδρα: “no pain comes to the man”. For πόνος as simply “pain” see Simonides fr. 15.1 (αἰῶνι δ’ ἐν παύρωι πόνος ἀμφὶ πόνωι)

47 νήδυμος: “sweet”; a typical epithet of sleep (ὕπνος) in Homer, e.g. Il. 14.354 “Sweet sleep went to rush to the ships of the Achaeans” (βῆ δὲ θέειν ἐπὶ νῆας ᾿Αχαιῶν νήδυμος ῞Υπνος).

δάκνοντος ἐμεῖο: Most likely a genitive absolute (i.e. “Sweet sleep never flees when I bite”; but the force of the preposition in ἀπέφυγεν (on which, see above, line 42) might take a genitive object (i.e. “Sweet sleep never fled from my bite”) ἐμεῖο: ἐμοῦ

48 τὰ: The article in Homer is often used as a relative, see line 32 above.
δείδια: See on 44.
πᾶσαν ἐπ’ αἶαν: αἶα (“land”) is a good Homeric word. This phrase is common, see Il. 23.742: (χάνδανεν, αὐτὰρ κάλλει ἐνίκα πᾶσαν ἐπ’ αἶαν)

49 κίρκον: “hawk”; in Homer the hawk is described in a simile (Il. 17.755-759):
“As a flock of starlings or jackdaws moves on,
They squawk constantly when they see a hawk coming on,
Bearing murder for the small birds.
In this way, the sons of the Achaians shrieked when they saw
Aeneas and Hector, and they lost their battle-courage.”

τῶν δ’ ὥς τε ψαρῶν νέφος ἔρχεται ἠὲ κολοιῶν
οὖλον κεκλήγοντες, ὅτε προΐδωσιν ἰόντα
κίρκον, ὅ τε σμικρῇσι φόνον φέρει ὀρνίθεσσιν,
ὣς ἄρ’ ὑπ’ Αἰνείᾳ τε καὶ ῞Εκτορι κοῦροι ᾿Αχαιῶν
οὖλον κεκλήγοντες ἴσαν, λήθοντο δὲ χάρμης.
In the Odyssey, the hawk is a messenger of Apollo (15.526: κίρκος, ᾿Απόλλωνος ταχὺς ἄγγελος• ἐν δὲ πόδεσσι)

καὶ γαλέην: “weasel”

ἄγουσιν: sc. φέρουσιν

50 καὶ παγίδα στονόεσσαν, ὅπου δολόεις πέλε πότμος•
παγίδα: παγίς: “A snare, a trap” but here a “mousestrap”. Forms of this noun appear as early as Aristophanes (Birds, 194 and 527) and Aesop, although in both they refer to snares for birds. An earlier noun (πάγη) overlaps in meaning and both derive from πήγνυμι (“to fix, fasten”). An epigram in the Greek Anthology by Agatheus calls the Trojan Horse a “wooden trap” (αἴθε δ’ ᾿Επειὸς / κάτθανε πρὶν τεῦξαι δουρατέαν παγίδα).

στονόεσσαν: “greivous”, a Homeric adjective cf. Il. 24.721 (θρήνων ἐξάρχους, οἵ τε στονόεσσαν ἀοιδὴν)

δολόεις: “tricky, deceptive”; a post-classical adjectival form.

πέλε: A synonym for ἔστι. The middle form is more common in Homer. For this form, see Il. 19.365 (τοῦ καὶ ὀδόντων μὲν καναχὴ πέλε, τὼ δέ οἱ ὄσσε)

51 πλεῖστον δὴ γαλέην περιδείδια, ἥ τις ἀρίστη,
περιδείδια: “I really fear”. This is a good Homeric form: cf. Il. 10.93 αἰνῶς γὰρ Δαναῶν περιδείδια…). Cf. above on δέδια.

ἥ τις ἀρίστη: Another Homeric phrase in a familiar position. See 17.62. Here, however, the indefinite pronoun seems a bit forced.

52 ἣ καὶ τρωγλοδύνοντα
τρωγλοδύνοντα: “hole-dweller”. Cf. English “troglodyte”.

ἐρεείνει: “seek out”. In Homer, this verb means more frequently “to ask, inquire”. Cf. “to seek” and “to ask” on line 25 above.

53 ῥαφάνους: “cabbage”
κράμβας: “weeds”
κολοκύντας: “pumpkins”

54 οὐ σεύτλοις χλωροῖς: “pale beets”
ἐπιβόσκομαι: “to feed on” usually used of animals in Homer and without the prefix
σελίνοις: “parsely”

55 ἐδέσματα: See above on line 31: “all kinds of treats”; ἐδέσμασι is not found as early as Homer. It seems to rise in popularity in the 4th century BCE (appearing in Xenophon and Aristotle). Forms do appear in Aesop’s Fabulae as well.
κατὰ λίμνην: See above on line 17: “pond.” At Herodotus 4.132 we find βάτραχοι γενόμενοι ἐς τὰς λίμνας. The word λίμνη has a fairly extensive reach: it refers to several different bodies of water, including lakes, ponds, swamps, and marshes.

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