Tantalizing Testimonia: A Collection of Tidbits on the Homeric Batrakhomuomakhia

Yes, we are obsessed with the Homeric “Battle of Frogs and Mice”–but that obsession is nearing its telos as we get closer to completing our commentary.  Here is a random collection of ancient testimonies about the poem:

Greek Anthology, Exhortatory Epigrams 90.1–2:

῞Ομηρος αὐτοῦ γυμνάσαι γνῶσιν θέλων, / τῶν βατράχων ἔπλασε καὶ μυῶν μῦθον.

“Because he wanted to exercise his mind / Homer made up the tale of frogs and mice”

Preface to the Scholia to the Batrakhomuomakhia

“[Homer] adapted epic for young children who were especially excited for games [paignia], those whom a general education still milk-fed”.

ἁρμόζει μείραξιν ἁπαλοῖς ὲπτοημένοις περὶ τὰ παίγνια, ὅσους δηλαδὴ ἔτι ἐγκύκλιος παίδευσις γαλακτοτροφεῖ

Plutarch, On the Malice of Herodotus

“And last of all, [he made] the Greeks who were stationed at Plataia ignorant of the contest right up to the end of it, as if there were a Frog-War going on, the kind of thing Pigres wrote while playing around nonsensically in epic verse.”

τέλος δέ, καθημένους ἐν Πλαταιαῖς ἀγνοῆσαι μέχρι τέλους τὸν ἀγῶνα τοὺς ῞Ελληνας, ὥσπερ βατραχομαχίας γινομένης, ἣν Πίγρης ὁ ᾿Αρτεμισίας ἐν ἔπεσι παίζων καὶ φλυαρῶν ἔγραψε.

Statius, Preface to Silvae 8-10

“But we read the Culex and we know the Batrachomachia too / there is no famous poet who has not toyed in style more relaxed than in his other works”

sed et Culicem legimus et Batrachomachiam etiam agnoscimus, nec quisquam est inlustrium poetarum qui non aliquid operibus suis stilo remissiore praeluserit 

Martial, Epigram 14.183

“Read the frogs sung in Maeonian song / or my trifles to smooth out your brow”

, Perlege Maeonio cantatas carmine ranas / Et frontem nugis solvere disce meis ().

Plut. Life of Agesilaos. 15.5:

“Men, when we were defeating Darius there, it was like a Mouse-battle in Arcadia”

῎Εοικεν, ὦ ἄνδρες, ὅτε Δαρεῖον ἡμεῖς ἐνικῶμεν ἐνταῦθα, ἐκεῖ τις ἐν ᾿Αρκαδίᾳ γεγονέναι μυομαχία

A Commentary on the Homeric Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 18: Lines 277-302

This is the eighteenth (and final) installment of our working commentary on the Homeric “Battle of Frogs and Mice”.

277 ῝Ως ἄρ’ ἔφη Κρονίδης· ῎Αρης δ’ ἀπαμείβετο μύθῳ·
278 οὔτ’ ἄρ’ ᾿Αθηναίης Κρονίδη σθένος οὔτε ῎Αρηος
279 ἰσχύει βατράχοισιν ἀμυνέμεν αἰπὺν ὄλεθρον.
280 ἀλλ’ ἄγε πάντες ἴωμεν ἀρηγόνες· ἢ τὸ σὸν ὅπλον
281 κινείσθω· οὕτω γὰρ ἁλώσεται ὅς τις ἄριστος,
282 ὥς ποτε καὶ Καπανῆα κατέκτανες ὄβριμον ἄνδρα
283 καὶ μέγαν ᾿Εγκελάδοντα καὶ ἄγρια φῦλα Γιγάντων.

284 ῝Ως ἄρ’ ἔφη· Κρονίδης δὲ βαλὼν ἀργῆτα κεραυνὸν
285 πρῶτα μὲν ἐβρόντησε, μέγαν δ’ ἐλέλιξεν ῎Ολυμπον.
286 αὐτὰρ ἔπειτα κεραυνὸν δειμαλέον διὸς ὅπλον
287 ἧκ᾿ ἐπιδινήσας. ὁ δ᾿ ἄῤ ἔπτατο χειρὸς ἄνακτος
288 πάντας μέν ῥ’ ἐφόβησε βαλὼν βατράχους τε μύας τε·
289 ἀλλ’ οὐδ’ ὣς ἀπέληγε μυῶν στρατός, ἀλλ’ ἔτι μᾶλλον
290 ἔλπετο πορθήσειν βατράχων γένος αἰχμητάων,
291 εἰ μὴ ἀπ’ Οὐλύμπου βατράχους ἐλέησε Κρονίων,
292 ὅς ῥα τότ’ ἐν βατράχοισιν ἀρωγοὺς εὐθὺς ἔπεμψεν.
293 ῏Ηλθον δ’ ἐξαίφνης νωτάκμονες, ἀγκυλοχεῖλαι,
294 λοξοβάται, στρεβλοί, ψαλιδόστομοι, ὀστρακόδερμοι,
295 ὀστοφυεῖς, πλατύνωτοι, ἀποστίλβοντες ἐν ὤμοις,
296 βλαισοί, χειλοτένοντες, ἀπὸ στέρνων ἐσορῶντες,
297 ὀκτάποδες, δικάρηνοι, ἀχειρέες, οἱ δὲ καλεῦνται
298 καρκίνοι, οἵ ῥα μυῶν οὐρὰς στομάτεσσιν ἔκοπτον
299 ἠδὲ πόδας καὶ χεῖρας· ἀνεγνάμπτοντο δὲ λόγχαι.
300 τοὺς δὴ ὑπέδεισαν δειλοὶ μύες οὐδ’ ἔτ’ ἔμειναν,
301 ἐς δὲ φυγὴν ἐτράποντο· ἐδύετο δ’ ἥλιος ἤδη,
302 καὶ πολέμου τελετὴ μονοήμερος ἐξετελέσθη

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A Commentary on the Homeric Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 17: Lines 260-275

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

259 ῏Ην δέ τις ἐν μυσὶ παῖς Μεριδάρπαξ ἔξοχος ἄλλων,
260 Κναίσωνος φίλος υἱὸς ἀμύμονος ἀρτεπιβούλου·
261a μεριδάρπαξ ὄρχαμος μιμούμενος αὐτὸν ἄρηα
261β ὃς μόνος ἐν μύεσσιν ἀρίστευεν καθ’ ὅμιλον
261c Κναίσων μέν, βρατράχοιο βέλει πληγεὶς κατὰ χεῖρα
261 οἴκαδ’ ἴεν, πολέμου δὲ μετασχεῖν παῖδ’ ἐκέλευεν·
262a αὐτὸς δ’ ἑστήκει γαυρούμενος κατὰ λίμνην
262 οὗτος ἀναρπάξαι βατράχων γενεὴν ἐπαπείλει·
263a στεῦτο δὲ πορθήσειν βρατράχων γένος αἰχμητάων
263 ἀγχοῦ δ’ ἕστηκεν μενεαίνων ἶφι μάχεσθαι
264 καὶ ῥήξας καρύοιο μέσην ῥάχιν εἰς δύο μοίρας
265 φράγδην ἀμφοτέροισι κενώμασι χεῖρας ἔθηκεν·
266 οἱ δὲ τάχος δείσαντες ἔβαν πάντες κατὰ λίμνην·
267 καί νύ κεν ἐξετέλεσσεν ἐπεὶ μέγα οἱ σθένος ἦεν,
268 εἰ μὴ ἄρ’ ὀξὺ νόησε πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε.
269 καὶ τότ’ ἀπολλυμένους βατράχους ᾤκτειρε Κρονίων,
270 κινήσας δὲ κάρη τοίην ἐφθέγξατο φωνήν·
271 ῍Ω πόποι ἦ μέγα θαῦμα τόδ’ ὀφθαλμοῖσιν ὁρῶμαι·
272 [οὐ μικρόν με πλήσσει Mεριδάρπαξ ὃς κατὰ λίμνην ]
273 ῞αρπαξ ἐν βατράχοισιν ἀμείβεται· ἀλλὰ τάχιστα
274 Παλλάδα πέμψωμεν πολεμόκλονον ἢ καὶ ῎Αρηα,
275 οἵ μιν ἐπισχήσουσι μάχης κρατερόν περ ἐόντα.

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A Commentary on the Homeric Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 16: 226-259

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

226 ῾Υδρόχαρις δ’ ἔπεφνεν Πτερνοφάγον βασιλῆα,
227 Λιτραῖον δ’ ἀρ’ ἔπεφνεν ἀμύμων Βορβοροκοίτης,
228 χερμαδίῳ πλήξας κατὰ βρέγματος· ἐγκέφαλος δὲ
229 ἐκ ῥινῶν ἔσταξε, παλάσσετο δ’ αἵματι γαῖα.
230 Λειχοπίναξ δ’ ἔκτεινεν ἀμύμονα Βορβοροκοίτην,
231 ἔγχει ἐπαΐξας· τὸν δὲ σκότος ὄσσε κάλυψεν.
232 Πρασσαῖος δὲ ἰδὼν ποδὸς εἵλκυσε Κνισσοδιώκτην ,
233 ἐν λίμνῃ δ’ ἀπέπνιξε κρατήσας χειρὶ τένοντα.
234 Ψιχάρπαξ δ’ ἤμυν’ ἑτάρου περὶ τεθνειῶτος
235 καὶ βάλε Πρασσαῖον κατὰ νηδύος ἐς μέσον ἧπαρ,
236 πῖπτε δέ οἱ πρόσθεν, ψυχὴ δ’ ᾿Αϊδόσδε βεβήκει.
237 Κραμβοβάτης δὲ ἰδὼν πηλοῦ δράκα ῥίψεν ἐπ’ αὐτόν,
238 καὶ τὸ μέτωπον ἔχρισε καὶ ἐξετύφλου παρὰ μικρόν.
239 ὠργίσθη δ’ ἄρ’ ἐκεῖνος, ἑλὼν δ’ ἄρα χειρὶ παχείῃ
240 κείμενον ἐν δαπέδῳ λίθον ὄβριμον, ἄχθος ἀρούρης,
241 τῷ βάλε Κραμβοβάτην ὑπὸ γούνατα· πᾶσα δ’ ἐκλάσθη
242 κνήμη δεξιτερή, πέσε δ’ ὕπτιος ἐν κονίῃσι.
243 Κραυγασίδης δ’ ἤμυνε καὶ αὖθις βαῖνεν ἐπ’ αὐτόν,
244 τύψε δέ οἱ μέσσην κατὰ γαστέρα· πᾶς δέ οἱ εἴσω
245 ὀξύσχοινος ἔδυνε, χαμαὶ δ’ ἔκχυντο ἅπαντα
246 ἔγκατ’ ἐφελκομένῳ ὑπὸ δούρατι χειρὶ παχείῃ·
247 Τρωγλοδύτης δ’ ὡς εἶδεν ἐπ’ ὄχθῃσιν ποταμοῖο,
248 σκάζων ἐκ πολέμου ἀνεχάζετο, τείρετο δ’ αἰνῶς·
249 ἥλατο δ’ ἐς τάφρους, ὅππως φύγῃ αἰπὺν ὄλεθρον.
250 Τρωξάρτης δ’ ἔβαλεν Φυσίγναθον ἐς ποδὸς ἄκρον.
251 ἔσχατος δ’ ἐκ λίμνης ἀνεδύσετο, τείρετο δ’ αἰνῶς
252 Πρασσαῖος δ’ ὡς εἶδεν ἔθ’ ἡμίπνουν προπεσόντα,
253 ἦλθε διὰ προμάχων καὶ ἀκόντισεν ὀξύσχοινον·
254 οὐδ’ ἔρρηξε σάκος, σχέτο δ’ αὐτοῦ δουρὸς ἀκωκή·
255 οὐδ’ ἔβαλε τρυφάλειαν ἀμύμονα καὶ τετράχυτρον
256 δῖος ᾿Οριγανίων, μιμούμενος αὐτὸν ῎Αρηα,
257 ὃς μόνος ἐν βατράχοισιν ἀρίστευεν καθ’ ὅμιλον·
258 ὥρμησεν δ’ ἄρ’ ἐπ’ αὐτόν· ὁ δ’ ὡς ἴδεν οὐχ ὑπέμεινεν
ἥρωας κρατερούς, ἀλλ’ ἔδυνε βένθεσι λίμνης

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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.

A Commentary on the Homeric Batrakhomuomakia, Part 14: Lines 177-197

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

177 ῝Ως ἄρ’ ἔφη Κρονίδης· τὸν δὲ προσέειπεν ᾿Αθήνη·
178 ὦ πάτερ οὐκ ἄν πώ ποτ’ ἐγὼ μυσὶ τειρομένοισιν
179 ἐλθοίμην ἐπαρωγός, ἐπεὶ κακὰ πολλά μ’ ἔοργαν
180 στέμματα βλάπτοντες καὶ λύχνους εἵνεκ’ ἐλαίου.
181 τοῦτο δέ μοι λίην ἔδακε φρένας οἷον ἔρεξαν.
182 πέπλον μου κατέτρωξαν ὃν ἐξύφηνα καμοῦσα
183 ἐκ ῥοδάνης λεπτῆς καὶ στήμονα μακρὸν ἔνησα,
184 τρώγλας τ’ ἐμποίησαν· ὁ δ’ ἠπητής μοι ἐπέστη
185 καὶ πράσσει με τόκον· τὸ δὲ ῥίγιον ἀθανάτοισιν.
186 χρησαμένη γὰρ ἔνησα καὶ οὐκ ἔχω ἀνταποδοῦναι.
187 ἀλλ’ οὐδ’ ὣς βατράχοισιν ἀρηγέμεναι βουλήσω.
188 εἰσὶ γὰρ οὐδ’ αὐτοὶ φρένας ἔμπεδοι, ἀλλά με πρῴην
189 ἐκ πολέμου ἀνιοῦσαν ἐπεὶ λίην ἐκοπώθην,
190 ὕπνου δευομένην οὐκ εἴασαν θορυβοῦντες
191 οὐδ’ ὀλίγον καταμῦσαι· ἐγὼ δ’ ἄϋπνος κατεκείμην·
192 τὴν κεφαλὴν ἀλγοῦσαν, ἕως ἐβόησεν ἀλέκτωρ.
193 ἀλλ’ ἄγε παυσώμεσθα θεοὶ τούτοισιν ἀρήγειν,
194 μή κέ τις ὑμείων τρωθῇ βέλει ὀξυόεντι·
195 εἰσὶ γὰρ ἀγχέμαχοι, εἰ καὶ θεὸς ἀντίον ἔλθοι·
196 πάντες δ’ οὐρανόθεν τερπώμεθα δῆριν ὁρῶντες.
197 ῝Ως ἄρ’ ἔφη· καὶ τῇ γε θεοὶ ἐπεπείθοντ’ ἄλλοι,

Ως ἄρ’ ἔφη Κρονίδης· τὸν δὲ προσέειπεν ᾿Αθήνη: Rather typical lines of speech conclusion and introduction. It is less common to have an expression of speech conclusion and introduction in the same line. See line 277 below. This combination is probably a literary adaptation.

178 ὦ πάτερ οὐκ ἄν πώ ποτ’ ἐγὼ μυσὶ τειρομένοισιν: A future less vivid (using the optative with ἄν in the apodosis) with the protasis in the participle τειρομένοισιν (i.e. “I would never go as a helper to the mice even if they are being worn down”). According to Plutarch, many nations (including Persians, Arabians and Ethiopians) hate the mice and kill them to keep them out of the temples (whose gods similarly despise them), de Invidia et odio, 537a.

179 ἐπεὶ κακὰ πολλά μ’ ἔοργαν : Some MSS have ἐρέξαν instead of ἔοργαν. In either case, the sense is “they’ve done me many bad things”.

180 στέμματα βλάπτοντες καὶ λύχνους εἵνεκ’ ἐλαίου: The garlands were most likely made of olive-leaves (Athena is accusing the mice of eating her sacred objects). The lanterns (λύχνους) also have ritual use; earlier in the poem the mice use them for their shields (129).

181 ἔδακε φρένας: The use of ἔδακε is rather playful. It is not uncommonly used for psychic phenomena (cf. Iliad 5.493 …δάκε δὲ φρένας ῞Εκτορι μῦθος·) However, it is perhaps intended to strongly evoke the mouse’s characteristic nibbling. (cf. line 45 …ἄκρον δάκτυλον δάκνω)

182 πέπλον μου κατέτρωξαν ὃν ἐξύφηνα καμοῦσα: Part of ritual offerings to Athena involved the annual dressing of the image in the Parthenon with a new robe. Presenting Athena as weaving one for herself makes her like the women depicted in Homer but rather unlike a divine entity. This also toys with the ritual tradition of Athena’s peplos.

ἐξύφηνα καμοῦσα: Sequential use of the participle in Greek is often opposite of English sense, here”I wore myself out weaving” instead of the Greek order “I wove wearing myself out”. ἐξύφηνα is a root aorist of ὑφαίνω The compound ἐξύφηνα does not appear until Herodotus.

183 ἐκ ῥοδάνης λεπτῆς: “from tender wool”; ῥοδάνης is a post-Homeric word as is στήμονα.

καὶ στήμονα μακρὸν ἔνησα: Athena spins her own wool too!

ἔνησα: νέω, “to spin”

184 τρώγλας τ’ ἐμποίησαν: “they made holes in [my robes]”.

ἠπητής: A “mender,” from ὴπήσασθαι, “to mend.”

ἐπέστη: from ἐφίστημι , middle intransitive meaning, “to await, spring upon, pay attention to”.

185 καὶ πράσσει με τόκον: “and he makes me a debtor”. Ludwich (376) notes that the placement of this line is uncertain in the MSS. tradition; it is placed sometimes before 186, sometimes after. The epexegetical γὰρ in 186 may provide some grounds for retaining this line in its current position. Some scholars have found Athena claiming debt for her robe absurd and therefore questionable. The absurdity, conversely, is probably part of the humorous tone of the text and, moreover, not out of line with the Homeric tradition where, as Xenophanes claims, the gods appear worse than men (fr. 11)

“Homer and Hesiod attribute to the gods
Everything that is reproachful and blameworthy among men:
Stealing, committing adultery, and deceiving one another.”

πάντα θεοῖσ’ ἀνέθηκαν ῞Ομηρός θ’ ῾Ησίοδός τε,
ὅσσα παρ’ ἀνθρώποισιν ὀνείδεα καὶ ψόγος ἐστίν,
κλέπτειν μοιχεύειν τε καὶ ἀλλήλους ἀπατεύειν.

The undignified depiction of Athena, however humorous, may militate against an Athenian composition for the poem where the eponymous goddess is treated with regular reverance in comparison to other gods.

τὸ δὲ ῥίγιον ἀθανάτοισιν: ῥίγιον (“more horrible, chilly”, from ῥιγέω, “to shiver”) appears in Theognis, Homer, Hesiod, Mimnermus and Simonides and should be prefered to the variant τό γε ῥίπον / γ᾿ ἔριπον.

186 χρησαμένη: from χράομαι, “to borrow”.

ἔνησα: See above, note 183.

ἀνταποδοῦναι: ἀνταποδίδωμι, “to repay”.

οὐκ ἔχω: sc. οὐ δύναμαι. With infinitives ἔχω can mean “to be able to”.

187 ἀλλ’ οὐδ’ ὣς βατράχοισιν ἀρηγέμεναι βουλήσω. Cf. Odyssey 1.6: ἀλλ’ οὐδ’ ὧς ἑτάρους ἐρρύσατο, ἱέμενός περ·

ἀρηγέμεναι: from ἀρήγω, “to help”; cf. Il. 8.11: ἐλθόντ’ ἢ Τρώεσσιν ἀρηγέμεν ἢ Δαναοῖσι . The lengthened infinitive ἀρηγέμεναι does not occur in Homer, but does seven times in Quintus Smyrnaeus. But it is possible for multiple active infinitive variants to exist in the same poem Consider Homeric ἀμύνειν, ἀμυνέμεν, ἀμυνέμεναι “to defend”.

188 εἰσὶ γὰρ οὐδ’ αὐτοὶ φρένας ἔμπεδοι, ἀλλά με πρῴην: for the expression, see Iliad 6.352: τούτῳ δ’ οὔτ’ ἂρ νῦν φρένες ἔμπεδοι… Note the alteration in the Homeric expression: where the Iliad has “his thoughts are not sound” the parody has “they are not sound in their thoughts” unless we accept the Peppmüller’s conjecture αὐτοῖς φρένες.

189 ἐκ πολέμου ἀνιοῦσαν cf. Iliad 6.480 ἐκ πολέμου ἀνιόντα·

ἐκοπώθην: from κοπόω [κοπιάω] “to weary”. This may be the earliest occurence of this rare denominative verb from κόπος, “beating, striking”. In English, the metaphor “I am beaten down” might be a more appropriate translation. Athena goes on to complain that the Frogs annoy her with their sound and keep her from sleeping. Similarly, in Aristophanes’ Frogs, the eponymous chorus is depicted as “croaking” both during the chorus and the stichomythic exchange. Dionysus complains “I wish this “croak” would go to hell! There’s nothing left but croaking!” (᾿Αλλ’ ἐξόλοισθ’ αὐτῷ κοαξ / οὐδὲν γάρ ἐστ’ ἀλλ’ ἢ κοαξ, 226-227). It is likely that frog-noise was a common complaint in Classical Athens, but it is also possible that the parodist is engaging with Aristophanes (if we imagine the poem as being composed after the end of the fifth century BCE). See also on line 213 below.

190 οὐκ εἴασαν: For the 3rd plural aorist termination in –αν and its bearing on the date of the poem, see the note on line 179.

θορυβοῦντες: “making an uproar”. Forms of this verb and its noun do not apepar in Homer, but they do appear in Pindar on describing the noise of assembled people, in Plato, especially of judicial assemblies. There may be additional humor in this term used for human gatherings being applied to mice.

δευομένην: modifies με in line 188 along with ἀνιοῦσαν (189). It is not uncommon to have separation like this in Homer, but the alternation of indirect discourse and first-person verbs does seem a bit odd for hexameter

191 καταμῦσαι: καταμύειν literally means “to close one’s eyes.” A reader with a generous sense of humor could perhaps see in the form καταμῦσαι a pun on the murine theme of the work, or a sly hint to the rather similar-sounding katamyomachia (“battle of cats and mice”).

192 ἀλγοῦσαν: Several MSS have this form, following the accusative participles in 189 and 190. Others have the nominative ἀλγοῦσα using τὴν κεφαλὴν as an internal accusative. The sense of the accusative in indirect statement might be better construed if we move this line after 189 (or, without moving it, change to the nominative, following Ludwig, Glei et al. accepting the resulting hiatus ἀλγοῦσα, ἕως. Theognis allows something similar at 1327: ῏Ω παῖ, ἕως ἂν ἔχηις λείαν γένυν, οὔποτε σαίνων).

ἀλέκτωρ: “cock, rooster”

193 ἀλλ’ ἄγε παυσώμεσθα θεοὶ τούτοισιν ἀρήγειν: Several scholars have objected to the reading of παυσώμεσθα here on the grounds that one cannot stop what one has not yet begun (cf. Ludwich 379 ad loc.). However, this debate may too severely constrain the meanings of παυσώμεσθα and ἀρήγειν which are here, more consistent with Hellenistic usage than Homeric, used more abstractly to indicate reluctance and general side-taking rather than specific, localized assistance.

194 μή κέ τις ὑμείων τρωθῇ βέλει ὀξυόεντι· Byzantine variants include μή τις καὶ λόγχῃ τυπῇ δέμας ἠὲ μαχαίρῃ and μή κέ τις τρωθῇ λόγχῃ. Both lines use the λόγχῃ (which seems post-Homeric, see above) whereas the first also includes the Homeric short-sword, (cf. 11.844: ἔνθά μιν ἐκτανύσας ἐκ μηροῦ τάμνε μαχαίρῃ).

τρωθῇ: (“wound”) aorist of τιτρώσκω, formed off the root τρώω. Forms do appear in tragedy and Attic prose.

ὑμείων: Lengthened form of ὑμῶν which appears four times in Homer (e.g. Il. 19.153) but five times in Apollonius Rhodes.

βέλει ὀξυόεντι: “sharp shaft” built analogically on the Homeric formula ἔγχεϊ ὀξυόεντι. The form βέλει does occur once in the Iliad when Athena in disguise encourages Pandaros to shoot at the Achaeans (σῷ βέλεϊ δμηθέντα πυρῆς ἐπιβάντ’ ἀλεγεινῆς, 4.99).

The sentiment here plays upon the wounding of gods in the Iliad (e.g. Aphrodite in book 5) and that epic’s separation between the worlds of gods and men expressed most clearly by Apollo in book 21 (462-467) where he argues that since men are born and die quickly it woudl be foolish for immortal gods to fight on their behalf.

195 εἰσὶ γὰρ ἀγχέμαχοι, εἰ καὶ θεὸς ἀντίον ἔλθοι: ἀγχέμαχοι: “near-fighters”, “fierce”. This may be another oddly used Homeric epithet: often this is used not of people you might fight against, but instead those who fight alongside (near) you, as at Il. 16.272 and 17.165. Consider against this the general epithet. For line 195, some MSS have instead the full line εἰσὶ γὰρ ἀγέρωχοι ἄλκιμοι ἀγκιμαχηταί: “They are haughty, stalwart, close-fighters.” Both adjectives (ἀγχέμαχοι and ἀγέρωχοι) are applied to the Mysians in Homer (Μυσῶν τ’ ἀγχεμάχων καὶ ἀγαυῶν ἱππημολγῶν, Il. 13.5; πρὸς Θύμβρης δ’ ἔλαχον Λύκιοι Μυσοί τ’ ἀγέρωχοι, 10.430). It may be a stretch to hear a play on the sound of Greek Mûs in the Homeric Mûsoi, but the alternation of these epithets with both peoples certainly makes the possibility attractive. Close collocation, however, with καταμῦσαι (191) may strengthen the association.

196 πάντες δ’ οὐρανόθεν τερπώμεθα δῆριν ὁρῶντες: Compare Athena’s sentiments in 193-196 to the speech delivered by Apollo to Poseidon at Iliad 21.466-7: ἄλλοτε δὲ φθινύθουσιν ἀκήριοι. ἀλλὰ τάχιστα / παυώμεσθα μάχης· οἳ δ’ αὐτοὶ δηριαάσθων. Note as well that the noun δῆριν refers to the topic announced for the poem at line 4.

197 ῝Ως ἄρ’ ἔφη: A formulaic speech-conclusion line, see above.

καὶ τῇ γε θεοὶ ἐπεπείθοντ’ ἄλλοι: “The rest of the gods agreed with her”. In the Iliad, where the gods do have some conflict and engage in some dissent, the consent of the other gods is often balance against Zeus’ desire to change the course of events (as in book 4 where Hera tells Zeus to do what he wants even though the other gods will not praise it (ἕρδ’· ἀτὰρ οὔ τοι πάντες ἐπαινέομεν θεοὶ ἄλλοι, 4.29). On the importance of praise and consent among the gods, see Martin 1989, 55-6 and Elmer 2013. In the Odyssey, however, Zeus and Athena operate primarily without the participation of the other gods. Here, the parodist allows Zeus to convene over the divine assembly, Athena to propose a course of action, and the other gods to follow her.

ἐπεπείθοντ’: In Homer, the middle of πείθω often means “to assent to” rather than “obey”. On this distinction, see Stensgaard 2003.

A Commentary on the Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 13: 160-176

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

160 ῝Ως εἰπὼν ἀνέπεισε καθοπλίζεσθαι ἅπαντας.
161 φύλλοις μὲν μαλαχῶν κνήμας ἑὰς ἀμφεκάλυψαν,
162 θώρηκας δ’ εἶχον καλῶν χλοερῶν ἀπὸ σεύτλων,
163 φύλλα δὲ τῶν κραμβῶν εἰς ἀσπίδας εὖ ἤσκησαν,
164 ἔγχος δ’ ὀξύσχοινος ἑκάστῳ μακρὸς ἀρήρει,
165 καί ῥα κέρα κοχλιῶν λεπτῶν ἐκάλυπτε κάρηνα.
166 φραξάμενοι δ’ ἔστησαν ἐπ’ ὄχθαις ὑψηλαῖσι
167 σείοντες λόγχας, θυμοῦ δ’ ἔμπλητο ἕκαστος.
168 Ζεὺς δὲ θεοὺς καλέσας εἰς οὐρανὸν ἀστερόεντα,
169 καὶ πολέμου πληθὺν δείξας κρατερούς τε μαχητάς,
170 πολλοὺς καὶ μεγάλους ἠδ’ ἔγχεα μακρὰ φέροντας,
171 οἷος Κενταύρων στρατὸς ἔρχεται ἠὲ Γιγάντων,
172 ἡδὺ γελῶν ἐρέεινε· τίνες βατράχοισιν ἀρωγοὶ
173 ἢ μυσὶν ἀθανάτων; καὶ ᾿Αθηναίην προσέειπεν·
174 ῏Ω θύγατερ μυσὶν ἦ ῥα βοηθήσουσα πορεύσῃ;
175 καὶ γὰρ σοῦ κατὰ νηὸν ἀεὶ σκιρτῶσιν ἅπαντες
176 κνίσῃ τερπόμενοι καὶ ἐδέσμασι παντοδαποῖσιν.


160-167 The poem offers a scene of frogs arming to match the mouse arming sequence. The strategy of the humor is not entirely different, but the content and contrast adds both to the earlier description and also parodies the type of balance evident in Homeric scenes.

160 ῝Ως εἰπὼν: A typical formula in Homeric speech-framing, e.g. Il. 1.326, sometimes expaned to the caesura as ῎Ητοι ὅ γ’ ὣς εἰπὼν… (e.g. Il. 7.354).

ἀνέπεισε: This compound is common in authors from Herodotus on. Homer uses the compounds παραπείθω and ἐπιπείθω with some frequency.

καθοπλίζεσθαι ἅπαντας: See on 122.

161 φύλλοις μὲν μαλαχῶν: “leaves of of mallow”. Mallow may describe many different types of the family Malvaceae. The genus native to Europe and Asia Minor, Althaea, grows on river banks. The plants reach maturity at between three and six feet with soft flowers whose nature helped give the name to marshmallows. Greeks and Romans prized the plants for alleged healing properties; the leaves were often eaten in salads.

κνήμας ἑὰς: “their own shins”; ἑὰς: reflexive personal pronoun.

ἀμφεκάλυψαν: This compound (unaugmented) ends the line at Od. 5.493, 13.152 and 158 and elsewhere.

162 θώρηκας δ’ εἶχον καλῶν χλοερῶν ἀπὸ σεύτλων: “they had breastplates from yellow beets”.

σεύτλων: This vegetable appears in one of the lives of Aesop (Life W) along with the μαλαχῶν. This does not necessarily imply common authorship or even time period for the composition, but does indicate a shared lexicon and perhaps common thematic atmosphere

163 φύλλα δὲ τῶν κραμβῶν: “leaves of cabbage”. According to Athenaeus, cabbage planted in vineyards made wine darker and eating cabbage before drinking could enhance inebriation (1.62)

εἰς ἀσπίδας εὖ ἤσκησαν: cf. Il. 23.742: πολλόν, ἐπεὶ Σιδόνες πολυδαίδαλοι εὖ ἤσκησαν.

164 ἔγχος δ’ ὀξύσχοινος ἑκάστῳ μακρὸς ἀρήρει: A bit of an awkward sentence but with a Homeric parallel: εἵλετο δ’ ἄλκιμα δοῦρε, τά οἱ παλάμηφιν ἀρήρει, 16.139 (“he took two strong spears which were fitted to his palms”). Following the pattern of the previous passage, it may be best to consider this as predicative: “For each a sharp reed was fitted as a great spear”. ὀξύσχοινος: “sharp reed”, may refer to a specific plant.

165 καί ῥα κέρα κοχλιῶν λεπτῶν ἐκάλυπτε κάρηνα: This line has several variants, most of which include the same image: snails’ shells as helmets (e.g., …κοχλίαι κάρην ἀμφεκάλυπτον. Thus, while the specific articulation may be uncertain, the image seems traditional.

166 φραξάμενοι: φράσσω, in the middle “to arm oneself”. This form appears in Mimnermus (ἤ[ϊξ]α̣ν κοίληι[ς ἀ]σπίσι φραξάμενοι, fr. 13a2).

ἐπ’ ὄχθαις ὑψηλαῖσι : “on the high banks”; the adjective appears in Homer and Hesiod for homes (e.g. Il. 6.503) and chairs (e.g. Od. 8.422).

167 σείοντες λόγχας: “brandishing spears”, λόγχη is a post-Homeric noun but the combination is similar to Il. (σείοντ’ ἐγχείας. 3.345). This is kikely another literary adaptation.

θυμοῦ δ’ ἔμπλητο ἕκαστος: Typically in Homer with πίμπλημι a person’s bodypart (in the accusative) is filled with something in the genitive as at Il. 22.312 when Achilles “filled his heart with eagerness” (μένεος δ’ ἐμπλήσατο θυμὸν) cf. Il. 1.102-103. In the passive, the verb can simply take a genitive as here if we understand thumos metonymically, e.g. “each was filled with enthusiasm”. Such a use of thumos appears as early as Isocrates (ἀλλ’ ὀργῆς καὶ θυμοῦ καὶ φθόνου καὶ φιλοτιμίας μεστοὺς, 12.81.8). One manuscript does have the accusative θυμόν which would also be non-Homeric without a genitive complement.

168-193: Zeus calls a council of the gods to consider the severity of the threat, and yet he prefaces it with a laugh and the threat of the conflict in reality is quite minor. At some level, we may consider the scene a parody of divine concern in the Homeric epics where even the works of men can bring them no real danger—even though the poet depicts the gods as showing actual concern. The parodic poet deploys the same tone to a different effect. In addition, the parody imitates the actual divine assemblies that occur in Greek epic at Iliad 4, 8, 24; and Odyssey 1. Athena responds and complains that she cannot support either side. The depiction of the goddess contrasts with her appearance in Homeric epic or Attic tragedy where she is frightening and serious. Here, Athena appears as rather pathetic, complaining about how the mice have ruined her clothing and that the frogs keep her awake. It is not impossible that Athena would receive such an irreverant treatment in a satyrical context (e.g. satyr plays or comedy), but the patron goddess is not a common target of the classical period.

168 Ζεὺς δὲ θεοὺς καλέσας: the verb of speech (ἐρέεινε, 172) is rather separated from the subject for Homeric standards.

εἰς οὐρανὸν ἀστερόεντα: A Homeric formula, e.g. Od. 12.380

169 καὶ πολέμου πληθὺν: The substantive πληθὺν typically appears unqualified in Homer, but here has a descriptive genitive

κρατερούς τε μαχητάς: “strong warriors”, more hyperbole. The combination is likely modeled on Il. 3.179 (…κρατερός τ’ αἰχμητής)

170 πολλοὺς καὶ μεγάλους: Hendiadys, “many, great and strong warriors”

ἠδ’ ἔγχεα μακρὰ φέροντας: cf. Il. 3.135 (ἀσπίσι κεκλιμένοι, παρὰ δ’ ἔγχεα μακρὰ πέπηγεν).

171 οἷος Κενταύρων στρατὸς ἔρχεται ἠὲ Γιγάντων: “The army of frogs roars like the giants and the mice are just like the boasting Centaurs”. The combination of the two echoes line 171; the mice are compared to Giants at line 7 and the battle is compared to the hubris of the Giants at 283. These variant lines, then, engage with a poetic strategy of humorous hyperbole in comparing the mice and frogs to threats to the cosmic order (Giants) and fantastic, nearly divine beings (Centaurs). These lines seem to push the comparison to another level of absurdity. 170a-b: The Byzantine edition has alternate lines: ὡς βατράχων στρατὸς ἔβρεμεν εὖτε γιγάντων and καὶ μῦες κενταύρων μεγαλαύχων ἦσαν ὁμοῖοι.

172 ἡδὺ γελῶν: This form of the participle is not found in Homer, who instead employs the phrase ἡδὺ γελάσσας· (cf. Iliad 21.508). This phrase at first appears to introduce a speech in the middle of a line, but it is more likely that this is an indirect description of speech.

ἀρωγοὶ: “helpers, assistants”, used in the Iliad of gods who aid one side or the other, see Il. 8.205 (εἴ περ γάρ κ’ ἐθέλοιμεν, ὅσοι Δαναοῖσιν ἀρωγοί) which occurs in another divine assembly

173 ἢ μυσὶν ἀθανάτων: Some manuscripts anticipate 178 with τειρομένοισιν in this line (“who will help the frogs and mice who are being worn down”). Instead, the text has a separation between the partitive genitive and the interrogative, i.e. “Who of the gods will be helpers for the mice or frogs”.

174 μυσὶν ἦ ῥα βοηθήσουσα: Zeus expects his daughter to help the mice since they are often in her temple. His image of the playful and happy mice stands in contrast to their recently described bellicosity.

βοηθήσουσα: Future participle of purpose. Some manuscripts have ἐπαλεξήσουσα; in the Iliad, Zeus sends Athena down to defend Herakles (ἐπαλεξήσουσαν, 8.365).

πορεύσῃ: Deliberative subjunctive.

175 ἀεὶ σκιρτῶσιν ἅπαντες: “They are all always dancing”. The verb σκιρτάω which can be appropriate to the skittish movement of mice (as in Aratus, 1134-1135: ᾿Αλλὰ γὰρ οὐδὲ μύες, τετριγότες εἴ ποτε μᾶλλον / εὔδιοι ἐσκίρτησαν ἐοικότες ὀρχηθμοῖσιν) is used in Classical Athens to describe the movement of Bacchae (Eur. Bacchae 446) and members of a chorus (Aristophanes, Wealth, 761), so it is possible that the image of dancing in the temple fo Athena may have some humorous echoes of ritual practice. A war-dance was performed in honor of Athena’s birth in full-armor at the Panathenain festival (pyrrhiche). See Burkert 1985, 102.

176 κνίσῃ τερπόμενοι: The gods are the ones who enjoy the smoke from sacrifices; it may be natural for a god to imagine that the mice would enjoy the things he himself does. As in the Homeric epics where there are parallels drawn between men and the gods, this might be a parodic example of a similiar strategy. For “smoke” in a mouse name, see Κνισσοδιώκτην, line 232. Cf. the “Daughter of Smokey” (Κν]ισ̣έωνος θ[υ]γάτη̣[ρ], line 8) who appears in the fragmentary GM.

ἐδέσμασι παντοδαποῖσιν: Zeus echoes what Psikharpax says about himself at line 31.