The Battle of Frogs and Mice

One of our longer projects.  Here’s a list of its parts.  See below for a description of the poem. Now coming out in print in January 2018.

Here is Bloomsbury’s Homepage for the book.

Here is a story of how it was written.


The Commentary

Part 1, Lines 1-8

Part 2, Lines 9-23

Part 3, Lines 24-41

Part 4, Lines 42-55

Part 5, Lines 56-66

Part 6, Lines 66-81

Part 7, Lines 82-98

Part 8, Lines 99-109

Part 9, Lines 110-121

Part 10, Lines 122-132

Part 11, Lines 133-146

Part 12: Lines 147-159

Part 13: Lines 160-176

Part 14: Lines 177-197

Part 15: Lines 198-225

Part 16: Lines 226-259

The Translation and Text

Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 1

Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 2: Frog Meets Mouse

Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 3: A Mouse Discloses his Diet

Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 4: A Frog Makes an Offer; A Mouse Becomes Europa

Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 5: Dying Mouse Curses Coward Frog

Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 6: A Murine Assembly Calls For War

Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 7: The Mice Arm and the Frogs Respond

Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 8: The Frogs Arm While Gods Debate

Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 9: Mayhem in the Melee

Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 10: Carnage: Murine Aristeia, Gods Intervene

Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 11: Zeus Gives the Frogs Crabs to Counter the Mouse Menace

The Batrakhomuomakhia (“The Battle of Frogs and Mice”, also Batrakhomakhia) is an example of epic parody  dated to the 6th through 4th centuries BCE or later (the Suda also lists “Battle of the Cranes”, Geranomakhia; and “Battle of the Spiders”, Arakhnomakhia; fragments remain of a “Weasel and Mouse War”). The poem’s style and language indicate later composition or editing. Ancient authors confirm this range of time: Plutarch (Agesilaus 15.4) has Alexander the Great referring to a Batrakhomakhia; the parody’s language echoes Anacreon (line 78 = fr. 460 PMG; see Bliquez 1977, 12).

The poem’s authorship is uncertain: Hellenistic sources attribute it to Homer; later sources credit Pigres of Halicarnassus (Plutarch, De Heroditi Malignitate 873). References to Athena, possible allusions to her rituals, and suggestive toponyms have suggested Athenian origins. Ancient testimonies report competitions for parody in the Greater Panathenaea during the 4th century BCE, but Aristotle places the parodic work of the Margites and Hipponax in the previous century (Poetics 1448b38-9a2).

The poem has many tropes from epic narrative. The basic plot features a friendship between a frog (Physignathus, “Puffing-Jaw”) and a mouse (Psikharpaks, “Crumb-thief”) that, once the mouse dies in a pond-crossing after falling from the frog’s back (86-99), results in heroic combat between their ‘tribes’, culminating in a mouse victory (aided by crabs sent by Zeus). In addition, the poem offers: heroic genealogies, speeches, type-scenes (heralds, arming sequences, assemblies), a use of paradeigma (e.g. Europa and Zeus), a divine council and divine intervention. This parodied world is somewhat post-Heroic: Athena refuses to aid mouse or frog and exhorts the Olympian gods to watch upon the conflict. There are some inconsistencies in the poem as combatants die only to reappear, which have been seen as textual errors or intentional imitations of a ‘nodding Homer’ (Kelly 2009). This latter reading is more in accord with a scholarly sense that sees parody engaged in serious—albeit indirect—literary criticism.

For the text see Wölke 1978; Glei 1984; Fusillo 1988; and West 2003. For a discussion of date and authorship, see Ludwich 1896; Rzach 1913; and Bliquez 1977; and West 2003. For the literary nature of parody and is cultural context, see Schibli 1983; Olson and Sens 1999; Scodel 2008; and Kelly 2009.

Works Cited

Lawrence J. Bliquez. “Frogs and Mice and Athens.” TAPA 107 (1977) 11-25.

Adrian Kelly. “Parodic Inconsistency: Some Problems in the ‘BATRAKHOMYOMAKHIA.” JHS 129 (2009) 45-51.

M. Fusillo. La Battaglia delle rane e dei topi. Batrachomyomachia. Guerini e Associati: Milan, 1988.

R. Glei. Die Batrachomyomachie. Frankfurt Am Main, 1984.

A. Ludwich. Die Homerische Batrachommachia des Karers Pigres nebst Scholien und Paraphrase. Leipzig, 1896.

D. Olson and A. Sens. Matro if Pitane and the Tradition of Epic Parody in the Fourth Century BCE. Atlanta, 1999.

A. Rzach, “Homeridai,” RE 8 (1913) 2170.

H. S. Schibli. “Fragments of a Weasel and Mouse War.” ZPE 53 (1983) 1-25.

Ruth Scodel. “Stupid, Pointless Wars.” TAPA 138 (2008) 219-235.

M. L. West. Homeric Hymns, Homeric Apocrypha, Lives of Homer. Cambridge, MA, 2003

H. Wölke. Untersuchungen zur Batrachomyomachie. Meisenheim am Glan. 1978.

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