Commentary on the Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 9 (lines 109-121)

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

109 Τρωξάρτης ἐπὶ παιδὶ χολούμενος, εἶπέ τε μῦθον•
110 ῏Ω φίλοι εἰ καὶ μοῦνος ἐγὼ κακὰ πολλὰ πέπονθα
111 ἐκ βατράχων, ἡ πεῖρα κακὴ πάντεσσι τέτυκται.
112 εἰμὶ δ’ ἐγὼ δύστηνος ἐπεὶ τρεῖς παῖδας ὄλεσσα.
113 καὶ τὸν μὲν πρῶτόν γε κατέκτανεν ἁρπάξασα
114 ἔχθιστος γαλέη, τρώγλης ἔκτοσθεν ἑλοῦσα.
115 τὸν δ’ ἄλλον πάλιν ἄνδρες ἀπηνέες ἐς μόρον εἷλξαν
116 καινοτέραις τέχναις ξύλινον δόλον ἐξευρόντες,
117 ἤν παγίδα κλείουσι, μυῶν ὀλέτειραν ἐοῦσαν
118 ὃ τρίτος ἦν ἀγαπητὸς ἐμοὶ καὶ μητέρι κεδνῇ,
119 τοῦτον ἀπέπνιξεν Φυσίγναθος ἐς βυθὸν ἄξας.
120 ἀλλ’ ἄγεθ’ ὁπλίζεσθε καὶ ἐξέλθωμεν ἐπ’ αὐτοὺς
121 σώματα κοσμήσαντες ἐν ἔντεσι δαιδαλέοισιν.

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.

110 εἰ καὶ: “If only” or “if indeed”. Ancient readers may have felt the adversative sense of the conditional weak: some MSS have ἀλλ᾿ ἡ with πεῖρα. The combination is rather unHomeric, where εἴ περ would be more common except where εἰ καὶ may have the force of αὖ as in Hom. Il. 16.623 (εἰ καὶ ἐγώ σε βάλοιμι τυχὼν μέσον ὀξέϊ χαλκῷ).

The force of εἰ καὶ without a coordinating particle (e.g. ἄν, κε, γε) in the apodosis may be harsh, motivated perhaps by the the father’s emotionality or, more probably, imperfect composition.

κακὰ πολλὰ πέπονθα: cf. Od.11.6: μάλα πολλὰ πέπονθας

111 ἐκ βατράχων: “from the frogs”. The preposition ἐκ + the genitive can express agency or origin of action in early Greek poetry.

ἡ πεῖρα κακὴ πάντεσσι τέτυκται: Other MSS have μοῖρα instead of πεῖρα, which is paralleled by Il. 3.101. But τέτυκται tends to end the line with various subjects (e.g., 24.354). For πάντεσσι τέτυκται, cf. Il. 14.246

112 δύστηνος: ill-fated
ὄλεσσα: aorist 1st person singular

113 This sequence begins a catalogue of mouse enemies moving from weasel, to men and culminating, perhaps humorously, in frogs.

114 γαλέη: “weasel” or “cat”. There is a poetic tradition of a “Battle of cats and mice” that may be echoed here.

τρώγλης ἔκτοσθεν ἑλοῦσα: compare Skylla grabbing men in the Odyssey (οὓς ἔφαγε Σκύλλη γλαφυρῆς ἐκ νηὸς ἑλοῦσα, 12.310)

113-114: There str alternate lines in the Byzantina prosodia: υἱέα μοι πρῶτον μυοφόρβος δορπήσατο / θὴρ μεγάλη κλονέοντα πτέρναν σιάλοιο τυχοῦσα: “a big mouse-eating beast first made a meal of my son, a beast found him as he rushed after a ham-hock”

115 ἄνδρες ἀπηνέες: “harsh men”,
εἷλξαν: “dragged” from ἕλκω. This form does not appear in Homer where εἷλκον is more common

116 καινοτέραις τέχναις: “new-fangled arts/tricks”
ξύλινον δόλον: “wooden trick”, the phrase may recall the Trojan horse.

117 : Allen excises this line because it was taken from verse 50. Glei points out that verse 50 was omitted in many MSS.
ἤν παγίδα κλείουσι: “which they call a trap”; κλείουσι is a conjecture by Ludwig. The original MSS have καλέουσι
μυῶν ὀλέτειραν: “destroyer of mice”

118 ὃ τρίτος: The other two have just been described, this is the son in question
ἀγαπητὸς: “beloved”, used of Telemachus by his nurse Euryklea in the Odyssey (2.265) and of Astyanax in the Iliad (Il. 6.501).

ἐμοὶ καὶ μητέρι κεδνῇ: Dative with the verb ἀγαπητὸς

119 τοῦτον ἀπέπνιξεν Φυσίγναθος ἐς βυθὸν ἄξας: the MSS have the alternate line τοῦτον ἀπέκτεινεν βάτραχος κακὸς ἔξοχος ἄλλων, “A frog who exceeds all others in wickedness killed him”.

ἀπέπνιξεν: ἀποπνίγω: “to choke, suffocate, drown”. This recurs 233. The verb is not Homeric, but it does occur in Aristophanes and the Attic orators. In the Aesopic fable, the Mouse speaks “while drowning” (ὁ δὲ πνιγόμενος)

ἐς βυθὸν ἄξας: Glei argues that this line is a holdover from the traditional fable of the frog and mouse where the former ties a rope around the mouse and drags him to his death (δήσας οὖν ὁ βάτραχος τὸν πόδα τοῦ μυὸς τῷ ἑαυτοῦ ποδὶ ἥλατο εἰς τὴν λίμνην ἕλκων καὶ τὸν μῦν δέσμιον).

120 ἀλλ’ ἄγεθ’ ὁπλίζεσθε: “But arm yourselves”. It is common to have ἆγετε to strengthen imperatives in Homer. The form ὁπλίζεσθε is late; this is one of its earliest attestations. Some MSS have ὁπλισόμεσθα instead (which appears at Od. 12.292)

καὶ ἐξέλθωμεν ἐπ’ αὐτοὺς: The hortatory subjunctive is often used in Homer in conjunction with imperatives.

121 This line is omitted in many MSS and absent in the archytpe. Ludwig (1896). The first half is the same as line 153 and the second half appears in Homer (cf. e.g. Il. 6.418)

σώματα κοσμήσαντες: “decking out, adorning our bodies”
ἐν ἔντεσι δαιδαλέοισιν: “in well-worked weapons”

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