Don’t Sleep on Plutarch: Sourcing a Mysterious Hexameter

Plutarch, Life of Lucullus 499

“After he was brought to the Troad, he set up camp in the shrine of Aphrodite. Once he fell asleep at night, he dreamed he say that goddess standing over him and speaking: “Why are you sleeping, great-hearted lion? The fawns are near [for you]”.

After he woke up and called his friends, he explained the dream while it was still night. And then there were some men from Troy who were announcing that thirteen of the king’s ships had been seen sailing near the harbor of the Achaeans going toward Lemnos. Lucuss then went out immediately and captured them and killed their general Isodorus, and then he was sailing after the other captains.

εἰς δὲ Τρῳάδα καταχθεὶς ἐσκήνωσε μὲν ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ τῆς Ἀφροδίτης, κατακοιμηθεὶς δὲ νύκτωρ ἐδόκει τὴν θεὰν ὁρᾶν ἐφεστῶσαν αὐτῷ καὶ λέγουσαν·

Τί κνώσσεις, μεγάθυμε λέον; νεβροὶ δε τοι ἐγγύς.

ἐξαναστὰς δὲ καὶ τοὺς φίλους καλέσας διηγεῖτο τὴν ὄψιν ἔτι νυκτὸς οὔσης. καὶ παρῆσαν ἐξ Ἰλίου τινὲς ἀπαγγέλλοντες ὦφθαι περὶ τὸν Ἀχαιῶν λιμένα τρισκαίδεκα πεντήρεις τῶν βασιλικῶν ἐπὶ Λῆμνον πλεούσας. εὐθὺς οὖν ἀναχθεὶς τούτους μὲν εἷλε καὶ τὸν στρατηγὸν αὐτῶν Ἰσίδωρον ἀπέκτεινεν, ἐπὶ δὲ τοὺς ἄλλους ἔπλει πρῳρέας.

I received an email about this passage from a friend (Aaron Beek) who was wondering where this line came from. Plutarch is famous for his quotation of other ancient others. His Lives are filled with figures who quote constantly; his own essays in the Moralia sometimes seem to be mere thin pretext for the assemblage of ancient sententiae. So, it is more than reasonable to imagine that when he places Lucullus near Troy and has that Trojan-loving Aphrodite speak in a dream, she might speak a line from a Trojan tale of Old.

The problem Aaron and I face that this line seems to have no attestation beyond this scene. The Suda lists this line twice (s.v. Κνώσσω and Λούκουλλος) and it appears in the Oracular Appendix of the Greek Anthology (231). All three appearances undoubtedly have Plutarch as the source. But what was Plutarch’s source? Rather than keeping this question to ourselves, we are bringing it to the world….

Others may contemplate the content of this line and how it might pertain to some moment in the Trojan War narrative (Aaron has suggested that it might work as something said by Aphrodite to Hektor when the Greeks first appear which would be a cool intertext). Since I am a Homeric philologist by training, I need to start by looking at the language.

The thing the strikes me first about this is the epithet. It shows up twice in the Iliad when Glaukos and Asteropaios respond to Diomedes and Achilles (respectively: 6.145, 21.153). Indeed, the epithet is rather popular after Homer too. Here are the lines with the vocative:

Τυδεΐδη μεγάθυμε τί ἢ γενεὴν ἐρεείνεις; Il. 6.145
Πηλεΐδη μεγάθυμε τί ἦ γενεὴν ἐρεείνεις; Il. 21.153

Κοιαντίς, μεγάθυμε, πολυλλίστη βασίλεια, Orph. Hym. 35 (To Leto)
Αἴγυπτε μεγάθυμε· ἀτὰρ πάλι ταῦτα βοήσω, Orac. Sib. 11.119 (2nd BCE=4th CE)
«Πριαμίδη μεγάθυμε, δέμας μακάρεσσιν ἐοικώς, Q.S 6.309
«Κλῦθι, θεὰ μεγάθυμε, σάου δ’ ἐμὲ καὶ τεὸν ἵππον.», Q.S. 12.153
Σεῖο βίβλους μεγάθυμε Κομητὰς ῞Ομηρε δύ’ ἄρδην, Anth. Gr. 15.37
ῥηιδίως, μεγάθυμε, καὶ ἐσσύμενον κατερύκων, Anth. Gr. 16.65

There are other aspects of this line, however, which make me doubt an Archaic or even classical origin. The first is the meter. Here’s how to get six feet (Unless I have missed something here)* Τί κνώ / σσεις ‖ μεγά / θυμε λέ /ον; νεβ / ροὶ δε τοι / ἐγγύς. The adverb ἐγγύς can end the line in Homer, but the combination δε τοι as part of the fifth foot is just dreadful. We do have this combination, however much I hate it. (e.g. Il. 7.48Q ἦ ῥά νύ μοί τι πίθοιο, κασίγνητος δέ τοί εἰμι·cf. 8.104: ἠπεδανὸς δέ νύ τοι θεράπων, βραδέες δέ τοι ἵπποι.)

A second problem for me is the verb κνώσσω, which is highly defective and does not seem to appear much in hexameter (although it appears twice in Pindar [κνώσσοντί, Ol. 13.72; κνώσσων, Pyth. 1.9] and once in Epic. Adesp.[ 2.34: εὖτε νέους κνώσσοντας̣ [ἐποτρύνειε κατ’ αὖλιν]]).

Here’s Beekes on the verb:


Other brief observations: heroes are called lion-hearted in early poetry (in the Iliad: Agenor, Hektor, Achilles and Epeios):, but lions are not really called “great hearted”. To me, this looks like later “paint-by-number” versification: so, the work of a literate writer imitating oral composition rather than a genuinely early line. To add to this–the address “great-hearted lion, there are fawns…” is the use of a metaphor in a way we don’t really find in early epic. There are lots of antecedents in similes etc, but this device seems more Hellenistic. I don’t think I would claim that Plutarch composed this–the fact that he does not provide a source implies that (1) it is so well known that he does not need to or (2) there isn’t one and Plutarch is presenting this as the oracular content of a dream (or it is in fact part of a tradition handed down in the annals of Lucullus).

So, just to recap: to me, this line seems post-classical because of its meter, its address of the figure as a lion, and its diction. That said: my sense is based on privileging the Homeric epics we have (which are Ionian and then standardized a bit to Attic). Other localized traditions might have slightly different vocabulary and conventions. So, if for example, this line did come from the Cypria, it might indeed exhibit different qualities.

Any other ideas?

Some responses from twitter below. My impression of this being post-classical is, as I suspected, a bit warped by my strict focus to Homer. The passage might be typical of oracle speech. In this case, it might not then hail from a Trojan War narrative, unless of course it comes from a section of the narrative that draws on oracular language

Image result for medieval manuscript lion and fawns
Detail of a miniature of a manticore from the Rochester Bestiary, England (Rochester?), c. 1230, Royal MS 12 F XIII, f. 24v

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•

Continue reading “A Commentary on the Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 11: Lines 132-146”

The Sphinx’s Riddle in Epic Meter: Scholia and Athenaeus

An ancient scholar records an interesting fragment with the famous riddle of the Sphinx from the story of Oedipus (Scholia to Euripides Phoenician Women 46):

“It is two-footed, three-footed, and four-footed on land,
But has one voice. It alone changes its form of all the creatures
Who creep over the earth, through the sky and the sea.
But whenever it walks leaning on multiple feet,
Then its strength remains the weakest in its limbs.”

ἔστι δίπουν ἐπὶ γῆς καὶ τετράπον, οὗ μία φωνή,
καὶ τρίπον• ἀλλάσσει δὲ φυὴν μόνον ὅσσ’ ἐπὶ γαῖαν
ἑρπετὰ γίνονται ἀνά τ’ αἰθέρα καὶ κατὰ πόντον.
ἀλλ’ ὁπόταν πλεόνεσσιν ἐρειδόμενον ποσὶ βαίνῃ,
ἔνθα μένος γυίοισιν ἀφαυρότατον πέλει αὐτοῦ:

A version of this also appears in Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists (10.83) with some slight changes (he says that the fragment comes from the Greek historian Asclepiades.

ἔστι δίπουν ἐπὶ γῆς καὶ τετράπον, οὗ μία φωνή,
καὶ τρίπον, ἀλλάσσει δὲ φύσιν μόνον ὅσσ’ ἐπὶ γαῖαν
ἑρπετὰ γίνονται καὶ ἀν’ αἰθέρα καὶ κατὰ πόντον•
ἀλλ’ ὁπόταν πλείστοισιν ἐρειδόμενον ποσὶ βαίνῃ,
ἔνθα τάχος γυίοισιν ἀφαυρότατον πέλει αὑτοῦ.

Phusis for phuê is a typical post-classical rendering; the superlative πλείστοισιν (“most”) instead of the comparative πλεόνεσσιν (“more, many”) doesn’t make much sense to me; and without the noun μένος (“strength,energy, fury”) in the first version, I have trouble understanding the genitive αὐτοῦ (“his”), unless “speed” (τάχος) is the subject…

This may be the oldest version of the Sphinx’s riddle available. Since it is in dactylic hexameter, some have argued that it originally comes from an epic about Oedipus (e.g. Oedipodeia). The earliness of the fragment is dubious: not only does it seem to be lacking formulae and language clear from other extant epics, but some words are clearly later (e.g. ἀλλάσσει).  And, to my taste, these are particularly poor lines of hexameter. The only universally accepted fragment from the lost Oedipodeia, has better rhythm and more traditional language:

“and then [the Sphinx killed] the most beautiful and desire-inducing of all men,
the dear child of blameless Creon, shining Haemon.”

ἀλλ’ ἔτι κάλλιστόν τε καὶ ἱμεροέστατον ἄλλων
παῖδα φίλον Κρείοντος ἀμύμονος, Αἵμονα δῖον


Those of you who know Sophocles might be surprised to find Haemon dead here, but the tragedians need not agree with epic!

The riddle was also a popular motif, versions of it appeared in a lost play by Aeschylus, and plays by Sophocles and Euripides. The following is my favorite picture of Oedipus and the Sphinx, by Gustave Moreau (1864):

A Little Death?
A Little Death?

Homer’s Golden Words: When Hesiod and Homer Throw Down, Meles’ Son Wins the First Round

From the Contest of Homer and Hesiod (lines 71-94), most likely a text from the Roman Imperial age drawing upon earlier material. The story has it that Hesiod eventually wins, but Homer takes the first round.


“Although both poets competed wonderfully, they report that Hesiod gained the trophy in the following way. After he entered the middle of the contest ground, he inquired from Homer certain questions, and Homer answered. Hesiod said:

“Son of Meles, Homer who knows the mysteries of the gods,
Tell me foremost what is best for mortals?”

Homer Answered:

“First, it is best for mortals to not be born.
If born, to pass through Hades’ gates as soon as possible.”

Hesiod asked a second question:

“Tell me this too, Homer so like the gods,
What do you think is the fairest thing for mortals?

And Homer answered:

“ When merriment overtakes the whole people
as they feast in the halls and listen to a singer,
sitting in order next to tables filled with
food and meat as a cup-bearer draws wine from a bowl
and carries it to pour in all their cups.
This seems to my thinking to be the fairest thing.”

And when these words were uttered, they say that everyone was so amazed at them that the Greeks called them “the golden words” and even to this day everyone pronounces them before feasts or libations.”

ἀμφοτέρων δὲ τῶν ποιητῶν θαυμαστῶς ἀγωνισαμένων νικῆσαί φασι τὸν ῾Ησίοδον τὸν τρόπον τοῦτον• προελθόντα γὰρ εἰς τὸ μέσον πυνθάνεσθαι τοῦ ῾Ομήρου καθ’ ἓν ἕκαστον, τὸν δὲ ῞Ομηρον ἀποκρίνασθαι. φησὶν οὖν ῾Ησίοδος•
υἱὲ Μέλητος ῞Ομηρε θεῶν ἄπο μήδεα εἰδὼς
εἴπ’ ἄγε μοι πάμπρωτα τί φέρτατόν ἐστι βροτοῖσιν;
ἀρχὴν μὲν μὴ φῦναι ἐπιχθονίοισιν ἄριστον,
φύντα δ’ ὅμως ὤκιστα πύλας ᾿Αίδαο περῆσαι.
῾Ησίοδος τὸ δεύτερον•
εἴπ’ ἄγε μοι καὶ τοῦτο θεοῖς ἐπιείκελ’ ῞Ομηρε,
τί θνητοῖς κάλλιστον ὀίεαι ἐν φρεσὶν εἶναι;
ὁ δέ•
ὁππότ’ ἂν εὐφροσύνη μὲν ἔχῃ κατὰ δῆμον ἅπαντα,
δαιτυμόνες δ’ ἀνὰ δώματ’ ἀκουάζωνται ἀοιδοῦ
ἥμενοι ἑξείης, παρὰ δὲ πλήθωσι τράπεζαι
σίτου καὶ κρειῶν, μέθυ δ’ ἐκ κρητῆρος ἀφύσσων
οἰνοχόος φορέῃσι καὶ ἐγχείῃ δεπάεσσιν.
τοῦτό τί μοι κάλλιστον ἐνὶ φρεσὶν εἴδεται εἶναι.

ῥηθέντων δὲ τούτων τῶν ἐπῶν, οὕτω σφοδρῶς φασι θαυμασθῆναι τοὺς στίχους ὑπὸ τῶν ῾Ελλήνων ὥστε χρυσοῦς αὐτοὺς προσαγορευθῆναι, καὶ ἔτι καὶ νῦν ἐν ταῖς κοιναῖς θυσίαις πρὸ τῶν δείπνων καὶ σπονδῶν προκατεύχεσθαι πάντας.

Commentary on Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 3: 24-41

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

24 Τὸν δ’ αὖ Ψιχάρπαξ ἀπαμείβετο φώνησέν τε•
25 τίπτε γένος τοὐμὸν ζητεῖς; δῆλον δ’ ἐν ἅπασιν
26 ἀνθρώποις τε θεοῖς τε καὶ οὐρανίοις πετεηνοῖς.
27 Ψιχάρπαξ μὲν ἐγὼ κικλήσκομαι• εἰμὶ δὲ κοῦρος
28 Τρωξάρταο πατρὸς μεγαλήτορος• ἡ δέ νυ μήτηρ
29 Λειχομύλη, θυγάτηρ Πτερνοτρώκτου βασιλῆος.
30 γείνατο δ’ ἐν καλύβῃ με καὶ ἐξεθρέψατο βρωτοῖς
31 σύκοις καὶ καρύοις καὶ ἐδέσμασι παντοδαποῖσιν.
32 πῶς δὲ φίλον ποιῇ με, τὸν ἐς φύσιν οὐδὲν ὁμοῖον;
33 σοὶ μὲν γὰρ βίος ἐστὶν ἐν ὕδασιν• αὐτὰρ ἔμοιγε
34 ὅσσα παρ’ ἀνθρώποις τρώγειν ἔθος• οὐδέ με λήθει
35 ἄρτος τρισκοπάνιστος ἀπ’ εὐκύκλου κανέοιο,
36 οὐδὲ πλακοῦς τανύπεπλος ἔχων πολὺ σησαμότυρον,
37 οὐ τόμος ἐκ πτέρνης, οὐχ ἥπατα λευκοχίτωνα,
38 οὐ τυρὸς νεόπηκτος ἀπὸ γλυκεροῖο γάλακτος,
39 οὐ χρηστὸν μελίτωμα, τὸ καὶ μάκαρες ποθέουσιν,
40 οὐδ’ ὅσα πρὸς θοίνας μερόπων τεύχουσι μάγειροι,
41 κοσμοῦντες χύτρας ἀρτύμασι παντοδαποῖσιν.

Continue reading “Commentary on Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 3: 24-41”

Once, All the Animals Spoke the Same Language: Aesop’s Frog and Mouse Tales

We’ve been working on a text, translation and commentary of the Homeric Batrakhomuomakhia (“Battle of Frog and Mice”). Some of the themes, part of the plot, and even some specific instances of diction are shared with the Aesopic fable of the mouse and the frog. Below are two versions:

Continue reading “Once, All the Animals Spoke the Same Language: Aesop’s Frog and Mouse Tales”

Commentary on the Batrakhomyomakhia, Part 2: lines 9-23

Last week, we posted the first installment of our draft commentary on the Homeric “Battle of Frogs and Mice”. This is the second part. We welcome comments and additions.

9 Μῦς ποτε διψαλέος γαλέης κίνδυνον ἀλύξας,
10 πλησίον ἐν λίμνῃ λίχνον προσέθηκε γένειον,
11 ὕδατι τερπόμενος μελιηδέϊ• τὸν δὲ κατεῖδε
12 λιμνόχαρις πολύφημος , ἔπος δ’ ἐφθέγξατο τοῖον•
13 Ξεῖνε τίς εἶ; πόθεν ἦλθες ἐπ’ ἠϊόνας; τίς ὁ φύσας;
14 πάντα δ’ ἀλήθευσον, μὴ ψευδόμενόν σε νοήσω.
15 εἰ γάρ σε γνοίην φίλον ἄξιον ἐς δόμον ἄξω•
16 δῶρα δέ τοι δώσω ξεινήϊα πολλὰ καὶ ἐσθλά.
17 εἰμὶ δ’ ἐγὼ βασιλεὺς Φυσίγναθος, ὃς κατὰ λίμνην
18 τιμῶμαι βατράχων ἡγούμενος ἤματα πάντα•
19 καί με πατὴρ Πηλεὺς ἀνεθρέψατο , ῾Υδρομεδούσῃ
20 μιχθεὶς ἐν φιλότητι παρ’ ὄχθας ᾿Ηριδανοῖο.
21 καὶ σὲ δ’ ὁρῶ καλόν τε καὶ ἄλκιμον ἔξοχον ἄλλων,
22 σκηπτοῦχον βασιλῆα καὶ ἐν πολέμοισι μαχητὴν
23 ἔμμεναι• ἀλλ’ ἄγε θᾶσσον ἑὴν γενεὴν ἀγόρευε.
Continue reading “Commentary on the Batrakhomyomakhia, Part 2: lines 9-23”

Commentary on the Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 1 (lines 1-8)

We are near completing draft commentary on the Homeric Battle of Frogs and Mice. Starting this week, we will be posting it in sequence on this website. We welcome additional comments and suggestions. For our translation, go here.

  1. ᾿Αρχόμενος πρώτης σελίδος[1] χορὸν ἐξ ῾Ελικῶνος
  2. ἐλθεῖν εἰς ἐμὸν ἦτορ ἐπεύχομαι εἵνεκ’ ἀοιδῆς
  3. ἣν νέον ἐν δέλτοισιν ἐμοῖς ἐπὶ γούνασι θῆκα,
  4. δῆριν ἀπειρεσίην, πολεμόκλονον ἔργον ῎Αρηος,
  5. εὐχόμενος μερόπεσσιν ἐς οὔατα πᾶσι βαλέσθαι
  6. πῶς μύες ἐν βατράχοισιν ἀριστεύσαντες[2] ἔβησαν,
  7. γηγενέων ἀνδρῶν μιμούμενοι ἔργα Γιγάντων,
  8. ὡς λόγος ἐν θνητοῖσιν ἔην· τοίην δ’ ἔχεν ἀρχήν.

1 ᾿Αρχόμενος: “Beginning from”, a rather common motif in epic and hymnic poetry. Ap. Rhodes starts: ᾿Αρχόμενος σέο Φοῖβε παλαιγενέων κλέα φωτῶν (cf. Glei 112 ad loc.)

πρώτης σελίδος: translate as “page”. This phrase is associated with Homeric poetry in later writing as in the Gr. Anth (4.2: ῎Ανθεά σοι δρέψας ῾Ελικώνια καὶ κλυτοδένδρου / Πιερίης κείρας πρωτοφύτους κάλυκας / καὶ σελίδος νεαρῆς θερίσας στάχυν ἀντανέπλεξα …) or in the Vita Homeri (Plutarch) where the works of Homer are refered to as the “double pages of heroes” (δισσὰς ἡμιθέων γραψάμενος σελίδας / ὑμνεῖ δ’ ἡ μὲν νόστον ᾿Οδυσσῆος πολύπλαγκτον / ἡ δὲ τὸν ᾿Ιλιακὸν Δαρδανιδῶν πόλεμον) Cf. also Photius 187 (μηδ’ ἐς ῾Ομηρείην σελίδ’ ἔμβλεπε μηδ’ ἐλεγείην / μὴ τραγικὴν Μοῦσαν, μηδὲ μελογραφίην).Some texts have πρῶτον μουσῶν instead of πρώτης σελίδος but the phrase seems rather bland and, with the parallels above adduced, less engaged with poetic traditions.

χορὸν ἐξ ῾Ελικῶνος: see Hesiod Th. 1 (Μουσάων ῾Ελικωνιάδων ἀρχώμεθ’ ἀείδειν) . Heliconian Muses are special to Hesiod but not to be differentiated from the Olympian Muses. Mt. Helicon is in Thrace, but this epithet may have been brought by Thracians to Olympus; see West 1966, 152.

2 ἐλθεῖν εἰς ἐμὸν ἦτορ ἐπεύχομαι: introduces indirect statement, accusative subject χορὸν. In Homer ἐπεύχομαι means something closer to “boast” or “threaten” (cf. Il. 21.109; see Od. 15.353 for accusative plus infinitive construction). Here it means more like “to pray or hope”, which is also possible in Homer; see Muellner 1976, 17-67.

εἵνεκ’ ἀοιδῆς: trans as “song” . In Homer, aoidê indicates the action of a performing bard. Cf. Od. 1.340-341. (οἶνον πινόντων• ταύτης δ’ ἀποπαύε’ ἀοιδῆς / λυγρῆς, ἥ τέ μοι αἰὲν ἐνὶ στήθεσσι φίλον κῆρ)

ἣν νέον ἐν δέλτοισιν ἐμοῖς : which I just recently wrote on my tablets” νέον, neuter singular adjective used as adverb. This line is close to a fragment from Callimachus’ Aetia (1.21-22: καὶ γὰρ ὅτε πρώτιστον ἐμοῖς ἐπὶ δέλτον ἔθηκα / γούνασιν, ᾿Α[πό]λλων εἶπεν ὅ μοι Λύκιος•) The earliest appearance of writing with delt- is in Aeschylus. Cf. Prometheus Bound, 789: ἣν ἐγγράφου σὺ μνήμοσιν δέλτοις φρενῶν. Cf. also Eur. Iphigenia Taurica : ἐς τήνδε δ’ ὤικισ’ αἶαν. αἵδ’ ἐπιστολαί, / τάδ’ ἐστὶ τἀν δέλτοισιν ἐγγεγραμμένα. For additional association between delt- and Homer, see Gr. Anth 12.2.1-2: Μὴ ζήτει δέλτοισιν ἐμαῖς Πρίαμον παρὰ βωμοῖς

3 ἐπὶ γούνασι θῆκα: Tmesis with unagumented aorist. Homeric poetry drops augments frequently.

4 δῆριν ἀπειρεσίην: “endless strife”; cf. Il. 17.158 for the stife in war; cf. Od. 24.515: υἱός θ’ υἱωνός τ’ ἀρετῆς πέρι δῆριν ἔχουσι.” δῆριν: line-initial on Hes. Scutum (251 and 306). Cf. Nicander 450. In this position, ἀπειρεσίην appears at Il. 20.58 and Od. 11.621

πολεμόκλονον ἔργον ῎Αρηος: transfered epithet from Ares to the work. Epithet applied to Athena at Anacreonta fr. 55.33

5 εὐχόμενος μερόπεσσιν ἐς οὔατα πᾶσι βαλέσθαι : See line 2 for indirect statement.μερόπεσσιν: “mortals” (see μερόπεσσι βροτοῖσιν, 2.285). The term only appears in the plural and has its origins in meromai plus ops (literally “dividing the voice”, meaning “articulate” or having language). In Homer, the word is only used as an adjective for brotos or anthrôpos. For the imagery of sound striking the ears, see Il. 10.535 ἵππων μ’ ὠκυπόδων ἀμφὶ κτύπος οὔατα βάλλει.

6 πῶς μύες ἐν βατράχοισιν : Used here as an indirect interrogative, i.e. “tell you how the Mice went amog the frogs”. The indirect interrogative use of this form is not common in Homer (though the direct use is).

ἀριστεύσαντες ἔβησαν: various MSS have the future ἀριστεύσοντες instead. The aorist form of this particple does not occur in early poetry. The form ἔβησαν is used with the aorist participle at Od. 5.107. But here the periphrasis has the effect of a progressive aspect: “they went about triumphing among the frogs”.

7 γηγενέων ἀνδρῶν μιμούμενοι ἔργα Γιγάντων
γηγενέων, “earth-born”; Mice live in the earth and are born from it. For the giants, see Hes. Th. 185 and fr. 43a 65 (ἐν Φλέγρηι δ]ὲ Γίγαντας ὑπερφιάλους κατέπεφ[νε). For the connection between the Giants and Mice, both were children of the earth. The comparison to giants is also likely pejorative (giants were arrogant and challenged the cosmic order). And thus absurd. μιμούμενοι is later than Homer (the participle does not occur in hexameter poetry).

8 ὡς λόγος ἐν θνητοῖσιν ἔην• τοίην δ’ ἔχεν ἀρχήν.
Some MSS have epos instead of λόγος (which would be more Homeric). Homeric heroes “enjoy stories” (ἧστό τε καὶ τὸν ἔτερπε λόγοις, ἐπὶ δ’ ἕλκεϊ λυγρῷ, 15.393).
τοίην δ’ ἔχεν ἀρχήν: “this sort of beginning”. This creates a ring structure with the beginning of the proem (᾿Αρχόμενος) and creates the general sort of introduction that is not uncommon to the transition to the actual narrative.