Commentary on the Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 6: Lines 67-81

This is installment five 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.

67 καὶ τὸ πρῶτον ἔχαιρεν ὅτ’ ἔβλεπε γείτονας ὅρμους,
68 νήξει τερπόμενος Φυσιγνάθου• ἀλλ’ ὅτε δή ῥα
69 κύμασι πορφυρέοισιν ἐκλύζετο πολλὰ δακρύων
70 ἄχρηστον μετάνοιαν ἐμέμφετο, τίλλε δὲ χαίτας,
71 καὶ πόδας ἔσφιγγεν κατὰ γαστέρος, ἐν δέ οἱ ἦτορ
72 πάλλετ’ ἀηθείῃ καὶ ἐπὶ χθόνα βούλεθ’ ἱκέσθαι•
73 δεινὰ δ’ ὑπεστενάχιζε φόβου κρυόεντος ἀνάγκῃ.
74 οὐρὴν μὲν πρῶτ’ ἔπλασ’ ἐφ’ ὕδασιν ἠΰτε κώπην
75 σύρων, εὐχόμενος δὲ θεοῖς ἐπὶ γαῖαν ἱκέσθαι
76 ὕδασι πορφυρέοισιν ἐκλύζετο, πολλὰ δ’ ἐβώστρει•
77 καὶ τοῖον φάτο μῦθον ἀπὸ στόματός τ’ ἀγόρευσεν•
78 Οὐχ οὕτω νώτοισιν ἐβάστασε φόρτον ἔρωτος
79 ταῦρος ὅτ’ Εὐρώπην διὰ κύματος ἦγ’ ἐπὶ Κρήτην
80 ὡς μῦν ἁπλώσας ἐπινώτιον ἦγεν ἐς οἶκον
81 βάτραχος ὑψώσας ὠχρὸν δέμας ὕδατι λευκῷ

67 ἔχαιρεν: Note the imperfect tense of the verb indicating the continuing action
καὶ τὸ πρῶτον: “At first” adverbial accusative.
ὅρμους: “harbors”; Some manuscripts have λίμνας

68 νήξει: from νήχω “swim”; a post-Homeric word
ῥα: Line-final ῥα is comparatively rare in Homer; τε seems to be aparticle of choice for concluding a line.

69 κύμασι πορφυρέοισιν: “dark waves”; a Homeric phrase, see Il.21.326 (πορφύρεον δ’ ἄρα κῦμα διιπετέος ποταμοῖο) and Od. 11.243 (πορφύρεον δ’ ἄρα κῦμα περιστάθη οὔρεϊ ἶσον). This specific phrase occurs in the probably late Homeric Hymn to Athena (κύμασι πορφυρέοισι κυκώμενος, ἔσχετο δ’ ἅλμη, 12)

ἐκλύζετο: “he was splashed by”; used in conjunction with “waves” in Homer, see Il. 23.61 (ἐν καθαρῷ, ὅθι κύματ’ ἐπ’ ἠϊόνος κλύζεσκον)

πολλὰ δακρύων: “weeping much”; for Homer, it is heroic to cry.

70 ἄχρηστον: “useless”
μετάνοιαν: This is a post-Homeric word, fairly common in Attic Greek and later. Thucydides describes the Athenians’ repentance of their decision to destroy Mytiline: καὶ τῇ ὑστεραίᾳ μετάνοιά τις εὐθὺς ἦν αὐτοῖς καὶ ἀναλογισμὸς ὠμὸν τὸ βούλευμα καὶ μέγα ἐγνῶσθαι, πόλιν ὅλην διαφθεῖραι μᾶλλον ἢ οὐ τοὺς αἰτίους. (Thucydides 3.36.4) Indeed, compounds with –νοια do not occur in Homer, but become popular in later philosophical and technical works.

τίλλε δὲ χαίτας: “he tore his hair”. Hair and clothing rending is part of a formulaic expression of grief. See Il. 22.406 where Hecuba tears her hair (τίλλε κόμην…)

ἐμέμφετο: “to reproach, find fault with” from μέμφομαι. This verb is found only in ἐπὶ- compounds in Homer, and seems to have a slightly different connotation.

71 ἔσφιγγεν: “he was squeezing”

ἦτορ πάλλετ’: “His heart was leaping”; from πάλλω which functions like an intransitive middle (i.e. πάλλομαι) in Homer. For this phrase, see Iliad 22.451-2: ἐν δ’ ἐμοὶ αὐτῇ / στήθεσι πάλλεται ἦτορ ἀνὰ στόμα, νέρθε δὲ γοῦνα.

72 πάλλετ’ ἀηθείῃ καὶ ἐπὶ χθόνα βούλεθ’ ἱκέσθαι: Some MSS omit this line

ἀηθείῃ: “the novelty” (lit, “unaccustomness”). Forms of this word do appear in Plato, but not earlier. For the form in epic poetry, See Apollonius Rhodius 2.1063-5 αὐτὰρ πασσυδίῃ περιώσιον ὄρνυτ’ ἀυτήν ἀθρόοι, ὄφρα κολῳὸν ἀηθείῃ φοβέωνται / νεύοντάς τε λόφους καὶ ἐπήορα δούραθ’ ὕπερθεν. The concept and lexical root was available, however: cf. Il. 10.493 (νεκροῖς ἀμβαίνοντες• ἀήθεσσον γὰρ ἔτ’ αὐτῶν)

ἱκέσθαι: from ἱκνέομαι, A good Homeric aorist infinitive in this position. Some MSS have ἰδέσθαι but in Homer with ἐπὶ this would be awkward.

73 δεινὰ: Adverbial, “terribly” used in the combination δεινὰ δ’ ὁμοκλήσας in the Iliad (e.g. 20.448).

ὑπεστενάχιζε: “groan beneath”; the compound is not Homeric, but στενάχιζε is.

φόβου κρυόεντος ἀνάγκῃ. “Chilling fear” is a Homeric combination (Il. 9.2) but the full phrase “by necessity of…” is a little tortured.

74 οὐρὴν μὲν πρῶτ’ ἔπλασ’ ἐφ’ ὕδασιν ἠΰτε κώπην
οὐρὴν: “tail”
ἠΰτε κώπην: “like a rudder”
ἐφ’ ὕδασιν: On this see above, 33: Homer does not use plural forms of ὕδωρ. Apollonius Rhodes does, see 3.876: οἵη δέ, λιαροῖσιν ἐν ὕδασι Παρθενίοιο

75 This line basically repeats the same thoughts as line 72
σύρων: “drag, draw” from σύρω
ἱκέσθαι: se on 72 above

76 ὕδασι πορφυρέοισιν: see above on line 69 for κύμασι πορφυρέοισιν. This particular image does not occur in Homer. Some MSS have κύμασι instead of ὕδασι here.

ἐκλύζετο: See on 69, the image is repeated.

πολλὰ: Adverbial accusative

ἐβώστρει: Related to βοάω (“to shout”); rare, but in the Odyssey (12.124). Other MSS have δ᾿ ἐβόα

77 καὶ τοῖον φάτο μῦθον ἀπὸ στόματός τ’ ἀγόρευσεν: This line is omitted by some texts. As a line of speech introduction it is a bit odd: ἀπὸ στόματός does not occur in Homer. ἀγόρευσεν occurs in the Iliad (8.29). Without the line, however, the following lines are indirect speech rather than direct.

78 ἐβάστασε: “to lift up”
φόρτον ἔρωτος: “cargo of love”; see Anacreon fr. 115.1 (φόρτον ῎Ερωτος)

79 ταῦρος ὅτ’ Εὐρώπην: Zeus, disguised as a bull, abducts Europe and takes her to Crete. She gave birth to Minos, Sarpedon and Rhadamanthys. See Apollodorus 3.1. In Homer, comparison to mythological examples (called paradeigmata) is a common motif. See Willcock XXXX and Edmunds XXXX.

80 ἁπλώσας: To make single, unfold, spread out as in ἱστία. Other MSS have instead ἐπιπλώσας
ἐπινώτιον: “on the back”

81 ὑψώσας: “raise on high”
ὠχρὸν δέμας: “pale skin”—perhaps the poet is thinking of the pale color of a frog’s skin

ὕδατι λευκῷ: This could be repunctuated as a question, but the word-order is imperfect. The phrase “white water” appears in Homer (see 23.282) but in connection with bathing.


One thought on “Commentary on the Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 6: Lines 67-81

  1. I notice that like Homer this poet is fond of enjambment, that is the carrying over of a phrase onto the next line to give emphasis to a particular word. For example you have σύρων and ταυρον carried over as well as others.

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