Fun With Particles: ἄρα you surprised?

The particle ἄρα—translated often as “really”—has both consquential and explanatory functions (Smyth 1920 §2787) which are the regular meanings in Homer too (see Munro 1891, 316). Denniston (1954, 32) accords to the particle in Homer the expresion of “a lively feeling of interest” or even at times “surprise”. But, given the sheer number of occurrences in the Homeric epics, this may be problematic. The particle ἄρα occurs all the time in the Homeric epics (over 1800 times between the two for an average of 1:15 lines or so, see Denniston 1954, 33) but more sparingly in Hesiod.

How can this information help us judge the “Homeric character” of other hexameter poetry? The particle ἄρα appears 14 times in the 303 lines of the ‘Homeric’ Batrakhomuomakhia (BM) excluding the single time it occurs in the Prosodia Byzantina for a ratio of 1:21.64. For comparison, Hesiod’s Theogony exhibits a ratio of the same particle at 1:20.86 whereas the Works and Days’ ratio is a surprising 1:69 (see Zarecki 2007, 11 for these figures). For further comparison, the particle occurs 167 times in Apollonius Rhodes’ Argonautica (a ratio of 1:34.9); at a rate of 1:20.63 in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter and 1:34.11 in the Hymn to Hermes.

Where the particle appears in the BM limits its significance even more: given that many of its occurrences are in the highly formulaic speech conclusion ῝Ως ἄρ’ ἔφη (65, 177, 197, 277, 285) and that most are collocated in the last 100 lines of the poem during the rather ‘Homeric’ battle scene with two occurring in a formulaic death of a named character (e,g, Σευτλαῖον δ’ ἂρ, 209; cf. 226) and two appearing in the same metrical position as this following verbs (e.g. ὠργίσθη δ’ ἄρ’, 239; cf. 239). In fact, of the 14 total instances, only 2 occur before line 197. Hence, in the last 106 lines of the poem the particle occurs 12 times for a ratio of 1:8.83 which well exceeds that of either the Iliad or the Odyssey. (And this also leaves the ratio of the first 196 lines at a curious 1:98). Is the ratio in the last third of the poem an effect of the formulaic repetitiveness of this section, or is at feature of the parodist who chooses to exaggerate a Homeric tendency (if we can possibly divide the use of the formulae from the use of this particle specifically)?

Commentary on the Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 5: Lines 56-66

This is installment five of a working commentary on the Homeric Battle of Frogs and Mice. We have posted a translation elsewhere and welcome comments or suggestions on any part of this project.


56 Πρὸς τάδε μειδήσας Φυσίγναθος ἀντίον ηὔδα•
57 ξεῖνε λίην αὐχεῖς ἐπὶ γαστέρι• ἔστι καὶ ἡμῖν
58 πολλὰ μάλ’ ἐν λίμνῃ καὶ ἐπὶ χθονὶ θαύματ’ ἰδέσθαι.
59 ἀμφίβιον γὰρ ἔδωκε νομὴν βατράχοισι Κρονίων,
60 σκιρτῆσαι κατὰ γαῖαν, ἐν ὕδασι σῶμα καλύψαι,
61 στοιχείοις διττοῖς μεμερισμένα δώματα ναίειν.
62 εἰ δ’ ἐθέλεις καὶ ταῦτα δαήμεναι εὐχερές ἐστι•
63 βαῖνέ μοι ἐν νώτοισι, κράτει δέ με μήποτ’ ὀλίσθῃς,
64 ὅππως γηθόσυνος τὸν ἐμὸν δόμον εἰσαφίκηαι.
65 ῝Ως ἄρ’ ἔφη καὶ νῶτ’ ἐδίδου• ὁ δ’ ἔβαινε τάχιστα
66 χεῖρας ἔχων τρυφεροῖο κατ’ αὐχένος ἅμματι κούφῳ.


56 μειδήσας: “Grinning”, often appears in responses to speeches in Homer, e.g. Il. 23.555 ( ῝Ως φάτο, μείδησεν δὲ ποδάρκης δῖος ᾿Αχιλλεὺς). This masculine participle seems a bit more popular in the Hellenistic period, see Ap. Rhodes 2.61 and Gr. Anth. 12.126.3.

ἀντίον ηὔδα: “He responded, answered back”; a typical Homeric speech introduction for answering.

57 ξεῖνε λίην αὐχεῖς ἐπὶ γαστέρι
λίην: “excessively”, adv.
αὐχεῖς: “You brag about ..” with ἐπὶ γαστέρι. αὐχεῖς is not a Homeric word, but it does appear in Aeschylus (Ag. 1497; cf. Eur. Her. 31 Χο. εἰ σὺ μέγ’ αὐχεῖς).

ἐπὶ γαστέρι: “on your belly” with the sense of “because of”. See Smyth §1689.2c. This is not a typical use of the preposition in Homer. The phrase does appear in the Odyssey (7.216: οὐ γάρ τι στυγερῇ ἐπὶ γαστέρι κύντερον ἄλλο) but the sense there seems more one of addition or comparison (“there is nothing more shameful beyond a belly”).

ἔστι καὶ ἡμῖν: Dative of possession with subject enjambed in the next line.

58 θαύματ’ ἰδέσθαι: This plural (θαύματ’) does not occur in Homer. For the singular with this infinitive, see Hom. Od. 13.108: φάρε’ ὑφαίνουσιν ἁλιπόρφυρα, θαῦμα ἰδέσθαι. The phrase-pattern may have a certain antiquity, however. Cf. the plural at Hes. Th. 834. The rhythmic shape is the same with either ending.

59 ἀμφίβιον…νομὴν: “amphibious realm”; lit. “a double-lived pasture”
Κρονίων: “Son of Kronos”, Zeus, a typical Homeric epithet for Zeus in this position.

60 σκιρτῆσαι κατὰ γαῖαν, ἐν ὕδασι σῶμα καλύψαι: The verb δίδωμι (here, ἔδωκε) often takes an infinitive (i.e. “Zeus grants that we dance upon the earth”). But combined here with the object ἀμφίβιον…νομὴν it seems a bit forced. The chiastic structure of this line (infinitive-prepositional phrases-infinitive) seems rather characteristic of Hellenistic play. Note as well the possible humorous foreshadowing in “covering the body in water” (σῶμα καλύψαι).

61 στοιχείοις: “Parts, or elements”; this is a lengthened or diminutive of στοῖχος which means “row or rank”. The meaning “parts” or “elements” is rather common in philosophical prose. But it also appears more colloquially as well, and a few times in Aesop as in Fab 32.2.9 (“The story shows that no place, no land, no sky nor any part of the water safekeeps murders of men”, ὁ μῦθος δηλοῖ, ὅτι τοὺς φονεῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων οὔτε γῆς οὔτε ἀέρος οὔτε ὕδατος στοιχεῖον οὔτε τόπος ἄλλος φυλάττει). The root noun certainly was available as early as Homer, cf. “in a ranked line” μεταστοιχί (Il. 23.358)
᾿Αναξίμανδρος Πραξιάδου Μιλήσιος. οὗτος ἔφασκεν ἀρχὴν
καὶ στοιχεῖον τὸ ἄπειρον, οὐ διορίζων ἀέρα ἢ ὕδωρ ἢ ἄλλο τι (Diog. Laert. 2.1)

διττοῖς: Un-Homeric. A word such διπλόος would be more common epic usage. Theognis has the non-Attic Δισσαί (837)

δώματα ναίειν: “to inhabit homes”, still governed by ἔδωκε, i.e. “Zeus has granted that we inhabit…” Cf. Hes. Th. 303: ἔνθ’ ἄρα οἱ δάσσαντο θεοὶ κλυτὰ δώματα ναίειν and νῆσος δενδρήεσσα, θεὰ δ’ ἐν δώματα ναίει (Odyssey 1.51)

μεμερισμένα: “divided” from μερίζω, “to divide”. This participle does not occur in Homer, but it can be found in a scholion to The Odyssey, which says of the Aethiopians: Αἰθίοπες ἀνατολικοὶ καὶ δυσμικοί. κατοικοῦσι δὲ ἀμφότεροι πρὸς τῷ ὠκεανῷ. τούτου χάριν φησὶν “ἔσχατοι ἀνδρῶν.” E. νενέμηνται, μεμερισμένοι εἰσίν. (Scholia in Odysseam, Book 1 Line 23.)This gives the boast of Phusignathos a comic effect by extending his range between the real and semi-mythical worlds. See also line 20, where Okeanoio is a given as a variant of Eridanoio.

62 δαήμεναι: from δάω Homeric infinitive, “to learn”, often with a genitive direct object in Homer Cf. Il. 21.487 (εἰ δ’ ἐθέλεις πολέμοιο δαήμεναι…)

εὐχερές: Lit. “ready-to-hand”, i.e. “easy”

63 βαῖνέ… ἐν: tmesis is common in Homer; ἐμβαίνω is often used with getting on ships.

ἐν νώτοισι: “on my back”. The plural is often used metaphorically in Homer for the sea (e.g. Od. 17.146: οἵ κέν μιν πέμποιεν ἐπ’ εὐρέα νῶτα θαλάσσης.) but this dative form appears twice in references to portions of meat (Il. 7.321; Od. 14.437), although archaic poetry also uses it with horses (see Theognis 249: οὐχ ἵππων νώτοισιν ἐφήμενος• ἀλλά σε πέμψει)

κράτει δέ με μήποτ’ ὀλίσθῃς: from κρατέω (imperative singular, often confused with the third person indicative κρατεῖ); “Hold me tight so you don’t slip off”; The verb κράτει has no parallels in Homer but appears with a genitive object in Sophocles (Philokt. 1292: πρότεινε χεῖρα, καὶ κράτει τῶν σῶν ὅπλων).

64 γηθόσυνος: “Happy”, a Homeric adjective, e.g. Il. 4.272 ( ῝Ως ἔφατ’, ᾿Ατρεΐδης δὲ παρῴχετο γηθόσυνος κῆρ).

ὅππως …εἰσαφίκηαι: Uncontracted middle aorist optative from ὰφικνέομαι (optative because of ὅππως (lengthened from ὅπως for metrical reasons), object clause of effort). This is a Homeric form, though rare: μὴ καὶ ὑπὲρ μοῖραν δόμον ῎Αϊδος εἰσαφίκηαι, 30.336). In Homer, object clauses may take the subjunctive or optative where Attic might use future forms. See Smyth §2217.

65 ῝Ως ἄρ’ ἔφη καὶ: A typical speech conclusion, cf. Il. 1.584 (῝Ως ἄρ’ ἔφη καὶ ἀναΐξας δέπας ἀμφικύπελλον)

ὁ δ’: The particle δέ is frequently used to signal a subject change.

ἐδίδου: Imperfect, 3rd singular active. This form occurs once in Homer (Od. 11.289).

66 χεῖρας ἔχων τρυφεροῖο κατ’ αὐχένος:
τρυφεροῖο: Some manuscripts ἀπαλοῖο. Restored, the phrase recalls Iliadic battle language: ἀντικρὺ δ’ ἁπαλοῖο δι’ αὐχένος ἤλυθ’ ἀκωκή, Il.17.49.

κατ’ αὐχένος: “around, along the neck”. This combination is rare in the Classical period.

ἅμματι κούφῳ: “ghostly brine”; Some manuscripts have ἀλματι καλω̣῀,