Commentary on the Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 8: Lines 99-109

This is the eighth installation of our working Commentary on the Homeric “Battle of Frogs and Mice.” As always, comments, corrections and additions are welcome.

99 ῝Ως εἰπὼν ἀπέπνευσεν ἐν ὕδασι• τὸν δὲ κατεῖδεν
100 Λειχοπίναξ ὄχθῃσιν ἐφεζόμενος μαλακῇσιν•
101 δεινὸν δ’ ἐξολόλυξε, δραμὼν δ’ ἤγγειλε μύεσσιν.
102 ὡς δ’ ἔμαθον τὴν μοῖραν ἔδυ χόλος αἰνὸς ἅπαντας.
103 καὶ τότε κηρύκεσσιν ἑοῖς ἐκέλευσαν ὑπ’ ὄρθρον
104 κηρύσσειν ἀγορήνδ’ ἐς δώματα Τρωξάρταο,
105 πατρὸς δυστήνου Ψιχάρπαγος, ὃς κατὰ λίμνην
106 ὕπτιος ἐξήπλωτο νεκρὸν δέμας, οὐδὲ παρ’ ὄχθαις
107 ἦν ἤδη τλήμων, μέσσῳ δ’ ἐπενήχετο πόντῳ.
108 ὡς δ’ ἦλθον σπεύδοντες ἅμ’ ἠοῖ, πρῶτος ἀνέστη
109 Τρωξάρτης ἐπὶ παιδὶ χολούμενος, εἶπέ τε μῦθον•

99 ῝Ως εἰπὼν ἀπέπνευσεν ἐν ὕδασι: Note the melodramatic, extended death scene (from 88-99). In modern film, for example, this hyperbole might seem humorous. In ancient epic, however, death scenes are often drawn out and unrealistic. Consider the Homeric deaths of Patroklos and Hektor. The parodic character is not in the length of the scene but in the character who is dying.

ἀπέπνευσεν: “to die”, literally “to breathe out”, a metaphor for death clearer in Pindar, Nem.1.47 (ψυχὰς ἀπέπνευσεν μελέων ἀφάτων).

τὸν δὲ κατεῖδεν: “looked down upon”

100 ὄχθῃσιν ἐφεζόμενος μαλακῇσιν: “sitting on the soft banks”; the participle ἐφεζόμενος occurs in the Iliad (δενδρέῳ ἐφεζόμενοι ὄπα λειριόεσσαν ἱεῖσι, 3.152).

100a καί ῥα κραιπνότατος μοίρας μυσὶν ἄγγελος ἦλθεν: “and the swiftest messenger of the fate came to the mice”. This variant line is also probably a Byzantine interpolation.

101 δεινὸν δ’ ἐξολόλυξε, δραμὼν δ’ ἤγγειλε μύεσσιν
δεινὸν: Adverbial accusative

ἐξολόλυξε: “wailed out”, a hapax legomenon. The root related to ululation has to
do both with triumphal and mournful exclamation. In Homer, ὀλυλύζῶ is most often associated with women and often expresses joy than grief. Consider Eurkyleia’s near-exultation at the death of the suitors, Od. 22.408 (ἴθυσέν ῥ’ ὀλολύξαι, ἐπεὶ μέγα εἴσιδεν ἔργον)

ἤγγειλε: 3rd Person singular Aorist of ἀγγέλλω. This form occurs at Od. 23.22 (ταῦτ’ ἐλθοῦσ’ ἤγγειλε καὶ ἐξ ὕπνου ἀνέγειρε)

102 τὴν μοῖραν: “fate”. The ametrical variant τὸν μόρον (see Glei ad loc.) is more Homeric semantically.

ἔδυ χόλος αἰνὸς: “A dread rage came over them”. In Homer χόλος and ἔδυ do come together, but other verbs are more common with anger (Il.9.553). Homer uses three words (mênis, kholos and kotos) to describe anger. χόλος is most frequently used for anger within a social group over slights and honor (and is destabilizing according to Walsh 2005). On mênis as denoting divine rage, see Muellner 1995.

103 κηρύκεσσιν: For metrical reasons the dative plural can have two sigmas instead of one in Homer.

ὄρθρον: This is not the typical epic phrasing for “morning,” but rather a somehwaat later form. See Plutarch’s Publicola, 22.5 for a description of a foggy morning: καὶ κατὰ τύχην ὁμίχλης βαθείας ἐπιπεσούσης περὶ ὄρθρον.

104 κηρύσσειν κηρύσσειν: with κηρύκεσσιν: such figura etymoligica are common in early Greek poetry. Compare to Od. 2.7-8: αἶψα δὲ κηρύκεσσι λιγυφθόγγοισι κέλευσε
κηρύσσειν ἀγορήνδε κάρη κομόωντας ᾿Αχαιούς.

ἐς δώματα Τρωξάρταο: “the house of Bread-nibbler”; in the Iliad, the Trojan assembly is held before Priam’s house (2.788) as the gods also meet in Zeus’ home.. The Greeks meet in assembly near Odysseus’ ship (see Clay 2011). The Ithakans in the Odyssey seem to have a specific assembly-area.

ἀγορήνδ’: here seems to be used metaphorically (i.e. to ‘assembly’ before at the home of…”)

105 δυστήνου: “wretched”, a good Homeric adjective

ὃς κατὰ λίμνην: see above, line 17: The word λίμνη has a fairly extensive reach: it refers to several different bodies of water, including lakes, ponds, swamps, and marshes.

106 ὕπτιος: “on high”, used particularly of falling from a distance (e.g. Od. 18.398) but here used instead of a floating corpse. Regardless, the adjective often occurs with deaths.

ἐξήπλωτο: A later verb, “to be unfolded, or spread out”.

οὐδὲ παρ’ ὄχθαις: ”nor on the banks”, usuallyof riversbut here of the marsh/pond.

107 ἦν ἤδη τλήμων: τλήμων (“unfortunate”; “enduring” is very common in Tragedy but does appear frequently in epic (see Il. 10.231: ἤθελε δ’ ὁ τλήμων ᾿Οδυσεὺς καταδῦναι ὅμιλον ).

μέσσῳ δ’ ἐπενήχετο πόντῳ: lit. “he was swimming on top”, but here means more like “floating in the middle of the pond”. Note the hyperbolic use of pontos for a pond.

108 ὡς δ’ ἦλθον σπεύδοντες ἅμ’ ἠοῖ: On assembly meetings, see above on 104. The phrase ἅμ’ ἠοῖ appears often in Homer (e.g. 11.685).

πρῶτος ἀνέστη: “He rose first”; typical assembly-turn taking language

109 Τρωξάρτης ἐπὶ παιδὶ χολούμενος: The participle χολούμενος doesn’t appear in the Iliad or Odyssey but it does appear in H. Hermes (308) and Hesiod (WD 138). It does not typically take the preposition ἐπὶ + dative (instead ἀμφί) is more common. In addition, forms of the paricitple χωομένος are much more common in Homer.

εἶπέ τε μῦθον: “speak a speech” or simply just “speak”. Combinations of this verb and noun are common in Homeric speech introductions.

One thought on “Commentary on the Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 8: Lines 99-109

  1. Hi, as usual enjoying this commentary. Some comments.

    The present participle χολούμενος may not be common but the aorist is quite common in Homer where it takes the genitive of what you are angry about.

    τόν ῥ Ὀδυσεὺς ἑτάροιο χολωσάμενος βάλε δουρὶ
    Iliad 4.501

    Surely ὕπτιος means “on his back” rather than on high.

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