A Commentary on the Homeric Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 15: Lines 198-225

This is the fifteenth installment of our commentary on the Homeric “Battle of Frogs and Mice”.

198 πάντες δ’ αὖτ’ εἰσῆλθον ἀολλέες εἰς ἕνα χῶρον.
199 καὶ τότε κώνωπες μεγάλας σάλπιγγας ἔχοντες
200 δεινὸν ἐσάλπιγξαν πολέμου κτύπον· οὐρανόθεν δὲ
201 Ζεὺς Κρονίδης βρόντησε, τέρας πολέμοιο κακοῖο.
202 Πρῶτος δ’ ῾Υψιβόας Λειχήνορα οὔτασε δουρὶ
203 ἑσταότ’ ἐν προμάχοις κατὰ γαστέρα ἐς μέσον ἧπαρ·
204 κὰδ δ’ ἔπεσεν πρηνής, ἁπαλὰς δ’ ἐκόνισεν ἐθείρας.
205 δούπησεν δὲ πεσών, ἀράβησε δὲ τεύχε’ ἐπ’ αὐτῷ.
206 Τρωγλοδύτης δὲ μετ’ αὐτὸν ἀκόντισε Πηλείωνος,
207 πῆξεν δ’ ἐν στέρνῳ στιβαρὸν δόρυ· τὸν δὲ πεσόντα
208 εἷλε μέλας θάνατος, ψυχὴ δ’ ἐκ σώματος ἔπτη.
209 Σευτλαῖον δ’ ἂρ ἔπεφνε βαλὼν κέαρ ᾿Εμβασίχυτρος,
210 ᾿Αρτοφάγος δὲ Πολύφωνον κατὰ γαστέρα τύψε·
211 ἤριπε δὲ πρηνής, ψυχὴ δὲ μελέων ἐξέπτη.
212 Λιμνόχαρις δ’ ὡς εἶδεν ἀπολλύμενον Πολύφωνον,
213 Τρωγλοδύτην ἁπαλοῖο δι’ αὐχένος τρῶσεν ἐπιφθὰς
214a πέτρῳ μυλοειδέϊ· τὸν δὲ σκότος ὄσσε κάλυψε·
214 ᾿Ωκιμίδην δ’ ἄχος εἷλε καὶ ἤλασεν ὀξέϊ σχοίνῳ
215 οὐδ’ ἐξέσπασεν ἔγχος ἐναντίον· ὡς δ’ ἐνόησε
216 Λειχήνωρ δ’ αὐτοῖο τιτύσκετο δουρὶ φαεινῷ
217 καὶ βάλεν, οὐδ’ ἀφάμαρτε καθ’ ἧπαρ· ὡς δ’ ἐνόησε
218 Κοστοφάγον φεύγοντα βαθείαις ἔμπεσεν ὄχθαις.
219 ἀλλ’ οὐδ’ ὣς ἀπέληγε μάχης ἀλλ’ ἤλασεν αὐτόν·
220 κάππεσε δ’, οὐκ ἀνένευσεν, ἐβάπτετο δ’ αἵματι λίμνη
221 πορφυρέῳ, αὐτὸς δὲ παρ’ ἠιόν’ ἐξετανύσθη,
222 χορδῇσιν λιπαρῇσί τ’ ἐπορνύμενος λαγόνεσσιν.
223 Τυροφάγον δ’ αὐτῇσιν ἐπ’ ὄχθαις ἐξενάριξεν.
224 Πτερνογλύφον δὲ ἰδὼν Καλαμίνθιος ἐς φόβον ἦλθεν,
225 ἥλατο δ’ ἐς λίμνην φεύγων τὴν ἀσπίδα ῥίψας.

198-259 The gods gather to watch the clash of the armies and, as they often do in the Iliad and Odyssey. They direct the audience’s attention and act as an internal audience gazing upon the slaughter of war. The parodist makes this even more explicit after the gods move together as a crowd thronging into a theater for a spectacle. For the gods as an audience in Homer, see Griffin 1980, 179-201. For a more theoretical treatment, see Pucci 2002, 21. What the gods gaze upon is a rather confusing and hectic series of deaths swinging between both sides of the battle. The text has problems throughout and gets quite confusing. The last 100 lines of the poem are more formulaic and “Homeric” than the first two-thirds. This formulaic section presents action that is not altogether clear with prominent characters who die only to appear again later. Typically, scholars have interpreted the confusion as resulting from a combination of poor poetic skill and textual corruption. Following Kelly’s argument (2009) that the confusion and lack of clarity is an intentional act of parody of Homeric style (thus also revealing the parodist’s deep knowledge of Homeric style) we can view this section as a generic critique. It is clear from the manuscript tradition that there are significant confusions from textual transmission; on the other hand, the sophistication of the poem from the beginning to this point should make us wary of dismissing Kelly’s suggestion to take the parody seriously. It is quite possible to accomodate both the conventional and the theoretical interpretations of the poem.

198 ἀολλέες: “in throngs, gathered together”, a common Homeric term.
εἰς ἕνα χῶρον: cf. line 133.

199 καὶ τότε: a common phrase in Homer coordinating action among different characters as at Il. 1.92 when it provides a transition from the end of Achilles’
encouragement to the beginning of Calchas’ speech (Καὶ τότε δὴ θάρσησε καὶ ηὔδα μάντις ἀμύμων) .

κώνωπες: from κώνωψ, “gnat, mosquito”. Here, probably “mosquitoes”. The σάλπιγξ was a war trumpet. According to Aristotle (de Mundo 399b), the σάλπιγξ was sounded prior to the soldiers’ assumption of their arms. Presumably, the mosquitoes were bearing these trumpets for the mice, as it seems unlikely that they would serve the frogs in any function other than a source of sustenance.

200 ἐσάλπιγξαν: Denominative verb from σάλπιγξ

δεινὸν… κτύπον: This might typically signal a percussive sound, whereas in Homer trumpets ‘scream’ (ὡς δ’ ὅτ’ ἀριζήλη φωνή, ὅτε τ’ ἴαχε σάλπιγξ, 18.219) and the sky itself trumpets (ἀμφὶ δὲ σάλπιγξεν μέγας οὐρανός. ἄϊε δὲ Ζεὺς, 21.388).

201 Ζεὺς Κρονίδης βρόντησε, τέρας πολέμοιο κακοῖο. Cf. Il. 20.56 (δεινὸν δὲ βρόντησε πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε) and 17.548 (Ζεὺς ἐξ οὐρανόθεν τέρας ἔμμεναι ἢ πολέμοιο). For πολέμοιο κακοῖο (the Homeric genitives) see 1.284 (ἕρκος ᾿Αχαιοῖσιν πέλεται πολέμοιο κακοῖο). The appositive use of τέρας—which is generally associated with Zeus—is a bit odd, but see 5.741-2 (“on it was the Gorgon-head of the terrible monster, dread and terrifying, a symbol of Aegis-bearing Zeus”; ἐν δέ τε Γοργείη κεφαλὴ δεινοῖο πελώρου / δεινή τε σμερδνή τε, Διὸς τέρας αἰγιόχοιο).

202 Πρῶτος δ’: δὲ πρῶτος: often starts sequences of action. The δὲ is not adversative but instead copulative.

Λειχήνορα: “Man-licker”. Cf. line 216 below.

῾Υψιβόας: “Shouts-on-high”.

οὔτασε δουρὶ : A common sequence in the Iliad, cf. Il. 5.56 and 7.258

203 ἑσταότ’: Perfect passive particple of ἵστημι. ἑσταότ’ is common at the beginning of lines (e.g. Il. 4.366).

κατὰ γαστέρα : Some MSS have κατὰ γαστέρος instead of the accusative, meaning “through the stomach, he struck the middle of the liver with the spear”. The accusative with κατὰ (meaning “down into” or simply “into”) is Homeric (16.465) but the accumulation here of “down into the stomach into the liver” seems a bit strained. κατὰ γαστέρος does not occur in Homer but does occur earlier in this poem, 71. See also line 235 below. Both are likely literary adaptations, see Camerotto (1995, 12).

ἐς μέσον ἧπαρ·: “in the middle of the liver” doesn’t occur in Homeric battle scenes (middle of the stomach, e.g. ῾Ιπποθόῳ περιβάντα μέσην κατὰ γαστέρα τύψε, 17.313), but instead when Hecuba wishes she could eat Achilles’ liver (…τοῦ ἐγὼ μέσον ἧπαρ ἔχοιμι / ἐσθέμεναι προσφῦσα…, 24.212-213).

204 κὰδ: κατὰ, a common assimilation with δ’ ἔπεσεν see Il. 11.676: δ’ ἔπεσεν πρηνής: “He fell down face forward. In battle language, πρηνής (related to the late verb πρανίζω) contrasts with ὕπτιος, on one’s back

ἁπαλὰς δ’ ἐκόνισεν ἐθείρας: For κονίω as a transitive, see Il.21.207. For falling in dust, cf. 16.469: κὰδ δ’ ἔπεσ’ ἐν κονίῃσι μακών, ἀπὸ δ’ ἔπτατο θυμός.

205 δούπησεν δὲ πεσών: very Homeric, see Il. 16.599.

ἀράβησε δὲ τεύχε’ ἐπ’ αὐτῷ: this whole line is Homeric, see Il. 5.42.

206 Τρωγλοδύτης δὲ μετ’ αὐτὸν ἀκόντισε Πηλείωνος: The verb here can take the genitive, but some MSS have the accusative πηλείωνα. The addition of μετ’ αὐτὸν obscures the matter a bit. For the general sense, perhaps take μετ’ αὐτὸν merely temporally (i.e. “after that/him Hole-dweller hurled at the son of Peleus and his strong spear stuck in his chest”)

Πηλείωνος: “The son of Peleus”. Since he has receded into the action, Physignathos, the frog at the center of the war, dies an understated death here (if, in fact, this patronymic indicates the same frog). On the name, see Physignathos’ speech above at line 19. Note, however, that Physignathos is alive to be struck on the foot at line 250. The dead mouse-prince, Psikharpaks, appears alive too at line 234.

207 πῆξεν: Unaugmented aorist of πήγνυμι; στιβαρὸν δόρυ is the subject
τὸν δὲ πεσόντα: object of εἷλε.

208 εἷλε μέλας θάνατος: “black death” occurs at line 16.687 the phrase is closely based on the common κῆρα μέλαιναν (e.g. 21.66). Cf. Camerotto (1993, 16) and line 236 below.

ἔπτη: The syncopated, defective aorist of πέτομαι does not appear until after the Hellenistic period

209 ᾿Εμβασίχυτρος: “someone who enters dishes”; he is the herald who announces the war to the frogs at line 127.

Σευτλαῖον: from τεῦτλον, “beet”

ἔπεφνε: See on 141

210 ᾿Αρτοφάγος: “Bread-eater” from ἄρτος “loaf” and φαγέω, used not as a present but as a second aorist of ἐσθίω

Πολύφωνον: “of much voice” e.g. Noisy, Chatterer; see the note on the variant at line 12.

κατὰ γαστέρα: See discussion on 203

τύψε: unaugmented, 3rd person singular

210-222: In his edition, Allen suggests that 210, 213a and 217 are “clearly Byzantine” and, moreover, that the other lines “stand with them” and should therefore be rejected. West 2003 cuts out some of the lines but preserves most. Glei preserves the bulk while Ludwig agrees that 213, 213a are out of place (not present in the best manuscript tradition. 216 and 217 are also absent in some manuscripts.

211 ἤριπε δὲ πρηνής, ψυχὴ δὲ μελέων ἐξέπτη: This line is similar to 204 (κὰδ δ’ ἔπεσεν πρηνής) and 208 (ψυχὴ δ’ ἐκ σώματος ἔπτη).The first half is similar to Il.5.58 (ἤριπε δὲ πρηνής, ἀράβησε δὲ τεύχε’ ἐπ’ αὐτῷ.) For the notion is similar to Il. 23.880 (ὠκὺς δ’ ἐκ μελέων θυμὸς πτάτο, τῆλε δ’ ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ).

μελέων: Uncontracted genitive plural of μέλος, μέλεος (“limb”)

ἐξέπτη: See on line 208

212 Λιμνόχαρις: “Delights in the Pond”
ὡς εἶδεν: “When he saw that”; ὡς often follows the clause’s subject.

ἀπολλύμενον: Note the present tense of the participle, this gives the phrase a progressive force, i.e. “When he saw that Polyphônos was being destroyed.”

213 Τρωγλοδύτην ἁπαλοῖο δι’ αὐχένος τρῶσεν ἐπιφθὰς: There are two lines included in this section in some MSS.

213a πέτρῳ μυλοειδέϊ· τὸν δὲ σκότος ὄσσε κάλυψε· πέτρῳ μυλοειδέϊ: this appears in the Iliad (7.270: εἴσω δ’ ἀσπίδ’ ἔαξε βαλὼν μυλοειδέϊ πέτρῳ) during the dual of Ajax and Hektor. τὸν δὲ σκότος ὄσσε κάλυψε: A common Homeric formula, e.g. Il. 6.11; see line 231 below

213b Τρωγλήτης δ᾿ ἄῤ ἔπεφνε Βρεκαίκιγα ἐσθλὸν ἀίξας
This line also has largely formulaic aspects. On ἔπεφνε see 141, 209.

Βρεκαίκιγα ἐσθλὸν: The novel compound here may be an echo of Aristophanes’ frog call (brekekkex koax koax; Βρεκεκεκεξ κοαξ κοαξ from the Frogs) or it may be a compound of the root βρέχω (“to moisten, or to be wet”) and ἀίσσω (“to leap”) giving a meaning something like “Water-Darter”. The force of such a compound may be reflected as well in the line-ending participle ἀίξας which, by modifying the mouse, not the frog, engages in a bit of linguistic play. For the call brekekkex koax koax, see Dover 1993, 219 who draws on Campbell 1984 in proposing that the frog species in question in the Marsh Frog, Rana ridibunda.

214 εἷλε: Aorist of αίρέω

ἤλασεν ὀξέϊ σχοίνῳ: “with a sharp reed”. The final two words are an adaptation of a common Homeric line-final adjective-noun pairing: ὀξέϊ χαλκῷ (e.g. Il. 10.35), ὀξέϊ δουρὶ (e.g. Il. 11.95) and ὀξέϊ λᾶϊ (once, 16.739). The humorous adaptation of the common epithet and position from Heroic bronze and spear to the reed would certainly be clear to an audience familiar with Homeric poetry.

214a ἀλλ᾿ ὁ μὲν ἔσπασεν ἔγκος. ἐφωρμήθησαν δ᾿ ἐκ αὐτῶ̣
ἐφωρμήθησαν δ᾿ ἐκ αὐτῶ̣: This aorist passive exists nowhere else in Greek literature. The singular appears in the Odyssey (4.713).

ἀλλ᾿ ὁ μὲν ἔσπασεν ἔγκος: This line is similar to the first half of 215

213 Τρωγλίτην ἁπαλοῖο δι’ αὐχένος ἤριπε δ᾿ εὐθύς, 208-209 repeated
ἁπαλοῖο δι’ αὐχένος: See on 213 above.

215 ἐξέσπασεν: from σπάω, “to draw out”.

216 Λειχήνωρ δ’ αὐτοῖο τιτύσκετο δουρὶ φαεινῷ: This line is almost identical to Il. 13.159 (Μηριόνης δ’ αὐτοῖο τιτύσκετο δουρὶ φαεινῷ). A “Man-Licker” was killed as one of the first casualties at line 202. With the apparent resurrections of Physignathus and Psikharpaks, the return of the same Leikhênôr may contribute to the parody.

τιτύσκετο: from τιτύσκομαι which can mean “obtain or hit” like τεύχω, τυγχάνω with the genitive object.

217 καὶ βάλεν, οὐδ’ ἀφάμαρτε καθ’ ἧπαρ· ὡς δ’ ἐνόησε: The combination appears in Il. 11.350 (καὶ βάλεν, οὐδ’ ἀφάμαρτε τιτυσκόμενος κεφαλῆφιν, 11.350). The tautology of “hitting” and “not missing”, then is somewhat formulaic.

ἀφάμαρτε: second aorist of ἀφαρματάνω: “to miss”.

ὡς δ’ ἐνόησε: This is repeated throughout this section as a transition from one action to another. This is not an infrequent occurence in Homer (e.g. Il. 11.248; Od. 24.232) but not in this combination at the end of the line.

218 Κοστοφάγον: “Spice-eater”; the lexicographer Hesychius glosses κόστος as εἶδος ἀρώματος.
ἔμπεσεν: aorist from ἐμπίπτω. The subject is still Λειχήνωρ, but the sequence of finite verbs with the same subject is rather un-Homeric.

219 ἀλλ’ οὐδ’ ὣς ἀπέληγε μάχης ἀλλ’ ἤλασεν αὐτόν: The first part of this line is identical to a repeated line in the Iliad (e.g. ἀλλ’ οὐδ’ ὧς ἀπέληγε μάχης κορυθαίολος ῞Εκτωρ, 7.263). The vast majority of occurences of ἀλλά in Homer come at the beginning of the line. But it does appear the second position in this line over a dozen times in the Iliad. Nevertheless, the doubling of ἀλλά in the line is completely un-Homeric.

ἀπέληγε: from ἀπολήγω, “to leave off”, takes a genitive object.

ἤλασεν: Aorist of ἐλαύνω which can mean “to cut and wound” instead of simply “to drive”.

220 κάππεσε: syncope for καταπίπτω.

ἐβάπτετο: βάπτω, “to dip, to dye”. In tragedy, this verb is commonly used for scenes of slaughter (e.g. Aesch. Pr 863). With the pond as subject, however, the image is clear but strange. It seems that in the effort to incorporate tragic imagery, hyperbole, if not absurdity, results.

221 πορφυρέῳ: “dark red”; purple.

παρ’ ἠιόν’: “along the shore”.

ἐξετανύσθη: This form occurs in the Iliad (7.271: βλάψε δέ οἱ φίλα γούναθ’· ὃ δ’ ὕπτιος ἐξετανύσθη). From ἐκτανύω “to stretch out”

222 χορδῇσιν λιπαρῇσί: “trailing intestines”.

ἐπορνύμενος: some MSS have the genitive ἐπορνύμενου instead. In both cases the lines are hard to construe. The nominative here works better. The subject changes at αὐτὸς δὲ. Kostophagos is trying to rise up again as his intestines trail out of him. West (2003) believes this line is out of place.

λαγόνεσσιν: “loins”.

223 Τυροφάγον δ’ αὐτῇσιν ἐπ’ ὄχθαις ἐξενάριξεν: For this line to make sense, the subject would have to be Platelicker again, but that also presents the difficulty of having a mouse kill another mouse (unless this is a frog with a murine name).

Τυροφάγον: “Cheese-eater”, a name appropriate for a mouse. Cf. English tyrophile (“cheese-lover”).

ἐξενάριξεν: “to despoil” from ἐξεναρίζω, a common verb ending the line in Homer (e.g. Il. 5.151).

αὐτῇσιν ἐπ’ ὄχθαις: “the same or very banks”

224 Πτερνογλύφον: “Ham-borer”.

Καλαμίνθιος: “Mr. Reed”.

ἰδὼν: aorist participle of ὁράω.

ἦλθεν: aorist of ἔρχομαι.

225 ἥλατο δ’ ἐς λίμνην φεύγων τὴν ἀσπίδα ῥίψας.

ἥλατο: Aorist passive of ἐλαύνω.

τὴν ἀσπίδα ῥίψας: “after abandoning the shield”. The shield-abandoning poem is a motif in early Greek literature, and this line seems to draw on lyric fragments (cf. Anacreon fr. 36b ἀσπίδα ῥίψας ποταμοῦ καλλιρόου παρ’ ὄχθας,). The most famous articulation of this anti-heroic sentiment is Archilochus fr. 5.1-4

“Some Saian delights in the shield, the blameless one,
I left unwillingly next to a bush.
But I saved myself. Why should I care about that shield?
Screw it. I will get another one, no worse.”

ἀσπίδι μὲν Σαΐων τις ἀγάλλεται, ἣν παρὰ θάμνωι,
ἔντος ἀμώμητον, κάλλιπον οὐκ ἐθέλων·
αὐτὸν δ’ ἐξεσάωσα. τί μοι μέλει ἀσπὶς ἐκείνη;
ἐρρέτω· ἐξαῦτις κτήσομαι οὐ κακίω.


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