A Commentary on the Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 11: Lines 132-146

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

132 Οὕτω μὲν μύες ἦσαν ἔνοπλοι• ὡς δ’ ἐνόησαν
133 βάτραχοι ἐξανέδυσαν ἀφ’ ὕδατος, ἐς δ’ ἕνα χῶρον
134 ἐλθόντες βουλὴν ξύναγον πολέμοιο κακοῖο.
135 σκεπτομένων δ’ αὐτῶν πόθεν ἡ στάσις ἢ τίς ὁ θρύλλος,
136 κῆρυξ ἐγγύθεν ἦλθε φέρων ῥάβδον μετὰ χερσίν,
137 Τυρογλύφου υἱὸς μεγαλήτορος ᾿Εμβασίχυτρος,
138 ἀγγέλλων πολέμοιο κακὴν φάτιν, εἶπέ τε τοῖα•
139 ῏Ω βάτραχοι, μύες ὔμμιν ἀπειλήσαντες ἔπεμψαν
140 εἰπεῖν ὁπλίζεσθαι ἐπὶ πτόλεμόν τε μάχην τε.
141 εἶδον γὰρ καθ’ ὕδωρ Ψιχάρπαγα ὅν περ ἔπεφνεν
142 ὑμέτερος βασιλεὺς Φυσίγναθος. ἀλλὰ μάχεσθε
143 οἵ τινες ἐν βατράχοισιν ἀριστῆες γεγάατε.
144 ῝Ως εἰπὼν ἀπέφηνε• λόγος δ’ εἰς οὔατα πάντων
145 εἰσελθὼν ἐτάραξε φρένας βατράχων ἀγερώχων•
146 μεμφομένων δ’ αὐτῶν Φυσίγναθος εἶπεν ἀναστάς•

132 ἔνοπλοι: “armed”; a variant in some MSS for ἐν ὅπλοις which Ludwig prefers since the adjective is definitely post-Homeric.

ὡς δ’ ἐνόησαν: “when they noticed”

133 ἐξανέδυσαν ἀφ’ ὕδατος: “they rose up from the water”.

ἐς δ’ ἕνα χῶρον: “into one place”, a rather bland description for assembly formation.At Il. 4.446, a similar phrase is used to describe joining in battle (ἐς χῶρον ἕνα).

134 βουλὴν ξύναγον: “They summoned a council for wicked war”. This combination is not archaic, but the objetive genitive with βουλὴν is easy to understand. However, based on the archaic usage, it is unclear whether the line is reflecting the convening of a council regarding war or the creation of a plan about the war. The verb suggests the formation of a council. Regardless, the outcome is the same; the frogs assemble and prepare a plan for war. It must also be noted that the narrative is a bit proleptic, the frogs do not yet know that the mice have armed against them.

πολέμοιο κακοῖο: a Homeric formula repeated at 201. Cf. e.g., Il. 1.284 (ἕρκος ᾿Αχαιοῖσιν πέλεται πολέμοιο κακοῖο) .

135 σκεπτομένων δ’ αὐτῶν: genitive absolute (“as they were examining”)

πόθεν ἡ στάσις ἢ τίς: Indirect question: “where the chaos was from or what the noise was…”

ὁ θρύλλος: “noise”; Some MSS have μῦθος isntead

136 It is rather un-Homeric for a herald to announce war according to Glei.

ῥάβδον: “staff”; not typically used in Homer except by gods, e.g. Hermes (Il. 24.343 and Kirke (Od. 10.293); Athena (Od. 13.429). In Homer, this wand is usually magical, but here it is a gloss for the herald’s kêrukeion. In later Greek, it stands for all types of rods etc. (scepter, shepherd’s staff)

137 Τυρογλύφου: “Cheeseborer” (i.e. one who puts holes in cheese”)

μεγαλήτορος: “great-hearted”, a common Homeric epithet.

᾿Εμβασίχυτρος: “Bowl-diver”, someone who enters a bowl

138 ἀγγέλλων: for the participle with a form of ἔρχομαι see Od. 13.94.

φάτιν: “rumor, report”, see Od. 21.323 ; some MSS have ἔριν “strife” isntead.

εἶπέ τε τοῖα: Again, a bit less specific than Homeric speech introductions. some MSS have μῦθον like line 109 (εἶπέ τε μῦθον)

139 ὔμμιν: Lengthened form of ὑμῖν.

ἀπειλήσαντες: “threatening”; this is a common form of speech in Homer, see Il. 2.665 (βῆ φεύγων ἐπὶ πόντον• ἀπείλησαν γάρ οἱ ἄλλοι).

140 ἐπὶ πτόλεμόν τε μάχην τ: for ἐπὶ + accusative as “for” (as in purpose) see Smyth §1689.3a. For the combination πτόλεμόν τε μάχην see Il. 13.11 (καὶ γὰρ ὃ θαυμάζων ἧστο πτόλεμόν τε μάχην τε. The repetitive combination is traditional.

141 ὅν περ: ὅσπερ; This could simply be printed as ὅνπερ, effectively an extra emphatic form of the relative (e.g. “the very man whom…”).

ἔπεφνεν: “kill, slay”. This is a common enough Homeric form (a reduplicated aorist; cf. Il. 21.96: ὅς τοι ἑταῖρον ἔπεφνεν ἐνηέα τε κρατερόν τε) related to the noun φόνος. The present φένω is assumed (but does not occur). Some MSS have κατέπεφνεν which also occurs with some frequency in Homer. It would add one extra syllable to this line, however.

142 ἀλλὰ μάχεσθε: “But Fight!” This seemslike it might be typical of Homeric battle exhortations, but it is not.

143 οἵ τινες ἐν βατράχοισιν ἀριστῆες: Several MSS have εἴ τινες instead of οἵ τινες. For the motif of calling out the “best” of a group, see book 7 of the Iliad. (Il. 7.73: ὑμῖν δ’ ἐν γὰρ ἔασιν ἀριστῆες Παναχαιῶν and Il. 7.159 ὑμέων δ’ οἵ περ ἔασιν ἀριστῆες Παναχαιῶν; cf. Od. 6.34)

γεγάατε: from γίγνομαι. The epic perfect γέγαα exists as a variation for γέγονα. This is the only extant occyrence of this form in Greek literature and some MSS propose γεγόνατε while Ludwig’s archetype has γεγάα[σιν].

144 ἀπέφηνε: from ἀποφαίνω: “to speak out”

λόγος δ’ εἰς οὔατα πάντων: The sentiment would seem odd for the Iliad or the Odyssey. Homer does describe a sound as striking the ears (Il.10.535: ἵππων μ’ ὠκυπόδων ἀμφὶ κτύπος οὔατα βάλλει). Compare the poet’s programmatic statement in line 5, that the purpose of the poem is to “hutupon everyone’s ears”…ἐς οὔατα πᾶσι βαλέσθαι. The image of words coming upon the ears is common in Hellenistic Greek. Cf. Apollonius of Rhodes 3.904 …μὴ πατρὸς ἐς οὔατα μῦθος ἵκηται• Also, Callimachus Epigrams 27.4: ὅρκους μὴ δύνειν οὔατ’ ἐς ἀθανάτων. Notice that the poet uses λόγος here interchangeably with μῦθος (138) to refer to the same speech.

πάντων: Many MSS have μυῶν instead but it would make little sense for the mice to be frightened by their own messenger’s announcement to the frogs.

145 ἐτάραξε φρένας: from ταράσσω, “stir up, confuse”; used frequently of gods causing descruction and gods are often said to influence human φρένες (see Il. 6.234; 7.360; and 9.377).

ἀγερώχων: This same epithet is applied to the Rhodians in Iliad 2.654. In Homer, the adjective has a positive meaning which is roughly equivalent to “lordly,” but it later acquires the meaning “arrogant.” (Cf. Plutarch On Brotherly Love 492A:…ἀγέρωχον ὄντα καὶ ὑβριστὴν…)

146 μεμφομένων δ’ αὐτῶν: The genitive absolute of the text does not clearly indicate at first whether the frogs were upbraiding the herald Embasikhutros or their own king Physignathos. It is fairly clear that they are critcizing the king for his actions. In Homer, it was not an unseemly violation of the royal dignity to question a king’s judgment (see the assembly at the begining of book 9, for example, where Diomedes asserts his right to question Agamemnon in the agorê). If the frogs were criticizing their king, rather than the herald’s statements, then we can read the genitive absolute as a form of causative or circumstantial participle which explains the motivation for the lie which Ph. concocts: “Because the frogs were reproaching him, Physignathos got up and said…” It is possible that in creating a scene where the king has risked his own people by acting impetuously, the poet has Iliad 1 in mind (or, perhaps, the general motif of a tyrannical king acting against his people’s best interests.)

εἶπεν ἀναστάς: For a king standing up to address the assembly, see Iliad 19.77 (where Agamemnon doesn’t stand: αὐτόθεν ἐξ ἕδρης, οὐδ’ ἐν μέσσοισιν ἀναστάς•). There is no clear indication that the frogs sat in assembly in the text (and pushed too far, the image becomes a bit nonsensical since frogs customarily rest on four limbs). But it is conventional for the army to sit or for new speakers to “stand forward” during assemblies in Homer.


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