Commentary on the Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 10 (lines 102-131)

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

122 Ταῦτ’ εἰπὼν ἀνέπεισε καθοπλίζεσθαι ἅπαντας.
123 καὶ τοὺς μέν ῥ’ ἐκόρυσσεν ῎Αρης πολέμοιο μεμηλώς•
124 κνημῖδας μὲν πρῶτον ἐφήρμοσαν εἰς δύο μηρούς,
125 ῥήξαντες κυάμους χλωρούς, εὖ δ’ ἀσκήσαντες,
126 οὓς αὐτοὶ διὰ νυκτὸς ἐπιστάντες κατέτρωξαν.
127 θώρηκας δ’ εἶχον καλαμοστεφέων ἀπὸ βυρσῶν,
128 οὓς γαλέην δείραντες ἐπισταμένως ἐποίησαν.
129 ἀσπὶς δ’ ἦν λύχνου τὸ μεσόμφαλον• ἡ δέ νυ λόγχη
130 εὐμήκης βελόνη, παγχάλκεον ἔργον ῎Αρηος•
131 ἡ δὲ κόρυς τὸ λέπυρον ἐπὶ κροτάφοις ἐρεβίνθου.

122 Ταῦτ’ εἰπὼν ἀνέπεισε καθοπλίζεσθαι ἅπαντας. This line is the same as 160; some MSS omit it and the following line.

123 καὶ τοὺς μέν ῥ’ ἐκόρυσσεν: κορύσσω in the middle voice generally means to arm onseful, but in the active can mean “to arm, array”. Here, the meaning is probably metaphorical (i.e. “to marshall”, as in Il. 2.273 (πόλεμόν τε κορύσσων). The verb appears in Homer but never with an augment .

῎Αρης πολέμοιο μεμηλώς: The combination πτολέμοιο μεμηλώς “who cares for war” appears in Homer (Il. 13.469). The verb can take a genitive or accusative object, cf. Od. 1.151.

124 κνημῖδας μὲν πρῶτον ἐφήρμοσαν εἰς δύο μηρούς: “And they fitted the greaves to their two thighs”. This is a bit problematic, since greaves are typically put on shins instead of thighs. Some scholars (e.g. Ludwig) have imagined this confusion as resulting from interpolation and corruption. It is possible that the poet is playing with the tradition, i.e. making a joke that mouse legs are too small to accomdate a distinction between shin and thigh or, if we are to imagine a more sophisticated poet, an intentional bit of nonsense to bring into relief the unreality of many typical Homeric arming and battle scenes. The absurdity of the subsequent arming sequence supports such a reading. On the parody’s sophisticated reading of epic precedents, see Kelly XXXX.

125 : The arming sequence has multiple phrasing variations in the MSS. This line has variants that are closer to 161: φύλλοις μὲν μαλαχῶν κνήμας ἑὰς ἀμφεκάλυψαν.

ῥήξαντες κυάμους χλωρούς : “After breaking pale/yellow beans”

εὖ δ’ ἀσκήσαντες: For this second half of the line, some MSS have instead κνήμῃσι καλύπτρην. The verb ἀσκέω often appears in arming or the creation of arms in Homer and appears later in this text at 163.

126 ἐπιστάντες: “working on”; Ludwig’s archetype has ἐπισπῶντ᾿ ἐς κατάτρωξιν which would mean something like “who hurry for the gnawing of…”.

κατέτρωξαν: “nibbled clean” from κατατρώγω

127 θώρηκας “chest-piece”

καλαμοστεφέων ἀπὸ βυρσῶν: “from reed-bound hides”. The archetype has the alternate καλαμοραφέων “reed-woven”

128 οὓς γαλέην δείραντες: “After flaying a weasel/cat”. One might assume that the murine killing of a weasel would be material requiring some sort of explanation. Unfortunately, the details are left to the imagination. Ludwig (1896, ad loc) supposes that animals so adept at arming for war would obviously be able to kill a weasel.

ἐπισταμένως ἐποίησαν: “They made it knowingly” (see Il. 7.317 for preparing dinner; Od. 5.245 for the building of the raft)

129 ἀσπὶς δ’ ἦν λύχνου τὸ μεσόμφαλον: “their shield was the middle piece of a lamp”. The MSS have the dative possessor αὐτοῖς but this renders the line unmetrical.

ἡ … λόγχη: “spear”

130 εὐμήκης βελόνη: “well-measured needle”; βελόνη is often used for a spear or arrow point.

παγχάλκεον ἔργον ῎Αρηος•: “all-bronze work of Ares”. Ares does not actually make weapons—the association here is a metonym for the use of the tool not its origin. ἔργον ῎Αρηος often indivates in Homer the effects of war in general, see Il. 11.734. For the adjective with a weapon, see Od. 8.408.

131 ἡ δὲ κόρυς: “helmet”
τὸ λέπυρον… ἐρεβίνθου: “husk of a chick pea”. A variant has the mice using the skin of an onion instead of a chickpea, κρατάφοισι καρύου. A chick-pea husk is likely stronger proof against penetration.

ἐπὶ κροτάφοις: “on the temples”; for the helmet being fitted to temples, see Il. 13.188.