Life Imitating History Imitating Life

Athenaios, Deipnosophists, 13, 37, 577a [=BNJ 178 F1]

“Eumakhos the Neopolitan in the second book of his Histories Concerning Hannibal, records that Hieronymos, the tyrant of Syracuse, made one of the prostitutes from a brothel by the name of Peitho his wife and received her as queen.”

Εὐμαχος δὲ ὁ Νεαπολίτης ἐν τῆι δευτέραι τῶν Περὶ ᾽Αννίβαν ῾Ιστοριῶν ῾Ιερώνυμόν φησι τὸν τυραννήσαντα Συρακοσίων ἀγαγέσθαι γυναῖκα τῶν ἐπ᾽ οἰκήματος προεστηκυιῶν Πειθὼ ὄνομα καὶ ἀποδεῖξαι βασιλίδα.

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Judging on Aspiration not Failure

Aelius Aristedes, Reply to Plato 259-260

“Some of them certainly corrupted people while others blasphemed the gods; there were those who gave speeches which would have been better unsaid and others who produced more audacity than good sense. But it may not be the best to say that if some people use the excuse of philosophy and become scoundrels who are no better than most people or, by Zeus, even more clever at doing evil, then we should dishonor philosophy, provided that philosophy is not doing these sorts of things. Instead, we must use these things as evidence against them, that they have failed at philosophy.

In the same way, it does not make oratory worse if some people use blandishment or abuse, but we must recognize in this that they are bad at rhetoric just as the other people fail at philosophy, they all use the excuse of the noblest action to furnish themselves with the opportunity to do evil.

It would be odd if we were to judge actions of cobblers and carpenters not from their mistakes but instead from examples where they did as well as humanly possible, but we evaluate oratory not just from its greatest accomplishments, but instead according to those who do the opposite of what oratory intends.”

ὧν οἱ μὲν διέφθειραν δήπου τινάς, οἱ δ’ ἐβλασφήμησαν περὶ θεούς, οἱ δὲ λόγους ἄλλους τινὰς εἶπον, οὓς οὐκ ἄμεινον ἦν ὅλως, οἱ δὲ αὐθαδείας πλέον ἢ φρονήσεως εἰσηνέγκαντο. ἀλλὰ μὴ οὕτω βέλτιον ᾖ λέγειν, ὅτι οὐκ, εἴ τινες φιλοσοφίας προβλήματι χρώμενοι φαῦλοι καὶ μηδὲν βελτίους τῶν πολλῶν γεγόνασιν, ἢ νὴ Δία καὶ δεινότεροι κακουργεῖν, οὐ διὰ ταῦτα ἀτιμαστέον φιλοσοφίαν, ἕως ἂν φιλοσοφία μὴ τὸ τὰ τοιαῦτα ποιεῖν ᾖ, ἀλλ’ αὐτοῖς τούτοις τεκμηρίοις χρηστέον κατ’ ἐκείνων, ὅτι διημαρτήκασι φιλοσοφίας. οὐδὲ εἴ τινες, οἶμαι, κολακεύουσιν ἢ συκοφαντοῦσιν, χείρω τοῦτο ποιεῖ ῥητορικήν, ἀλλ’ ἡμαρτηκότας αὐτοὺς ῥητορικῆς ταύτῃ γε ταῦτα δεῖ δοκεῖν, ὥσπερ ἐκείνους φιλοσοφίας, ἐπὶ τῷ τοῦ καλλίστου προσχήματι τὴν τοῦ κακουργεῖν ἄδειαν ἑαυτοῖς ἐκπορίζοντας. ἄτοπον δ’ ἂν εἴη, εἰ τὰ μὲν τῶν σκυτοτόμων καὶ τῶν τεκτόνων ἔργα μὴ ἐξ ὧν ἂν διαμάρτωσι κρινοῦμεν, ἀλλ’ ἐξ ὧν ἂν ὡς δυνατὸν μάλιστα τύχωσιν, ῥητορικὴν δ’ οὐ μόνον οὐκ ἐκ τῶν κάλλιστα αὐτὴν ἀποτελεσάντων κρινοῦμεν, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐκ τῶν αὐτὰ τἀναντία πραττόντων οἷς ἡ ῥητορικὴ βούλεται.

 

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Ott Norlinger (1476) from the Hausbuch of the Mendelschen Zwolfbruderstiftung (Neurenberg, Germany). Folio 96 recto

Libanius Goes Straight-Up Nativist

Libanius, Oration 2.65-67

“Although I have especially considered the affairs of the whole world my own business, whether bad or good, and I have become the kind of person which fortune has made me, one who loves the world is not worthy of hatred.

So, if someone should restrain me just to taking care of the city which produced me, then this state would seem to be suffering misfortune because of the many immigrants who leave their own cities and homes to come here. Well, that’s if they really have homes they would be brave enough to see even in dreams, these foreigners who think it right to overpower citizens, despite fearing that the emperor might make a law to examine their unexpected wealth.

It is not enough for them to have what is ours, but if anyone dares to blame their good luck, they get enraged and anyone who complains is annoying. When you are the kind of people you are, how is it not terrifying to meet this limit to your freedom of speech?”

Μάλιστα μὲν οὖν τὰ τῆς οἰκουμένης ἁπάσης ἐμαυτοῦ νενόμικα βελτίω τε καὶ χείρω, καὶ γίγνομαι τοιοῦτος οἷον ἄν με ποιῶσιν αἱ ἐκείνης τύχαι, μισεῖσθαι δὲ ὁ φιλῶν τὴν οἰκουμένην οὐκ ἄξιος.

εἰ δ᾿ οὖν | καὶ κατακλείοι μέ τις εἰς τὴν ὑπὲρτῆς ἐνεγκούσης πρόνοιαν, ἀτυχεῖν μοι δοκεῖ ταῖς μετοικίαις αὕτη πολλῶν τινῶν οἳ τὰς αὑτῶν καταλιπόντες πόλεις καὶ οἴκους, εἰ δὴ καὶ οἴκους καὶ R οὐδ᾿ ἂν ὄναρ ἡδέως ἰδόντες οὗπερ ἔφυσαν, | ξένοι πολιτῶν κρατεῖν οἴονται δεῖν τρέμοντες1 μὴ νόμον θῇ βασιλεὺς εἶναι τῶν παραδόξων πλούτων εὐθύνας.

οἷς οὐκ ἐξαρκεῖ τὰ ἡμέτερα ἔχειν, ἀλλὰ κἂν αἰτιάσηταί τις τὴν Τύχην θυμοῦνται, καὶ βαρὺς ὁ μεμψάμενος· τὸ γὰρ εἰς τοῦθ᾿ ὑμᾶς ἥκειν παρρησίας ὄντας οἷοίπερ ἐστέ, πῶς οὐ πάνδεινον;

Ken Cuccinelli, “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”

Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Manuscript in the public domain
Bronze plaque inside the Statue of Liberty with the text of the poem
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Missed Your Target But Hit Your Step-Mother? That’s Not So Bad

Plutarch, On The Tranquility of Mind, 467 C-D

“Thoughtful men–just as bees find honey in thyme, the most bitter and driest plants–extract something fitting and useful to themselves even from the most adverse situations.

It is necessary that we practice and take care of this first, like the man who missed a dog with a stone but struck his stepmother instead and said “That’s not so bad”. For it is possible to change our reception of chance from undesired outcomes. Diogenes was sent into exile? “That’s not so bad!” For he began to become a philosopher after his exile.”

οἱ δὲ φρόνιμοι, καθάπερ ταῖς μελίτταις μέλι φέρει τὸ δριμύτατον καὶ ξηρότατον ὁ θύμος, οὕτως ἀπὸ τῶν δυσχερεστάτων πολλάκις πραγμάτων οἰκεῖόν τι καὶ χρήσιμον αὑτοῖς λαμβάνουσι.

Τοῦτ’ οὖν δεῖ πρῶτον ἀσκεῖν καὶ μελετᾶν, ὥσπερ ὁ τῆς κυνὸς ἁμαρτὼν τῷ λίθῳ καὶ τὴν μητρυιὰν πατάξας ‘οὐδ’ οὕτως’ ἔφη ‘κακῶς· ’ ἔξεστι γὰρ μεθιστάναι τὴν τύχην ἐκ τῶν ἀβουλήτων. ἐφυγαδεύθη Διογένης· ‘οὐδ’ οὕτως κακῶς’·  ἤρξατο γὰρ φιλοσοφεῖν μετὰ τὴν φυγήν.

Fearing/loathing stepmothers is a bit of a thing in Ancient Greek Literature:

Callimachus, Epigram 8

“A boy was placing a garland on his stepmother’s grave
Believing that she had softened her ways after death
But the stone leaned and fell and killed the child.
Avoid your stepmother, even in death, first sons!”

Στήλην μητρυιῆς, μικρὰν λίθον, ἔστεφε κοῦρος,
ὡς βίον ἠλλάχθαι καὶ τρόπον οἰόμενος·
ἡ δὲ τάφῳ κλινθεῖσα κατέκτανε παῖδα πεσοῦσα.
φεύγετε μητρυιῆς καὶ τάφον οἱ πρόγονοι.

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How Do You Persuade the Close-Minded?

 Epictetus’ Dissertationes ad Arriano Digestae (“Treatises Collected and Edited by Arrian”)

Book 1.5 Against the Academics

“Epictetus said that if someone resists what is clearly true, then it is not easy to devise an argument to persuade him to change his mind. This is due neither to the man’s strength or the teacher’s weakness, but instead because once someone has been assailed and hardens to stone, how could anyone prevail upon him with reason?

Men are hardened to reason in two ways: one is the petrification of thought; the other comes from shame, whenever someone is deployed in battle to such a degree that he will not acknowledge what is obvious or depart from his fellow combatants. Most of us fear the necrosis of our bodies and we will do anything to avoid having this happen in anyway; but we don’t think at all about the mortification of our mind. By Zeus, if a man is disposed in such a way concerning the mind itself that he can’t follow any argument or understand anything, we believe that he is ill. But if shame or self-regard hardens a man, we still persist in calling this strength!

Do you sense that you are awake? “No”, he answers, “Not more than when I imagine that I am awake while I dream.” The fantasy of dreaming differs in no way from being awake? “Not at all.”

How do I have a conversation with this man? What kind of fire or iron can I take to him to make him perceive that he has turned to stone? Although he realizes it, he pretends he does not. He is even worse than a corpse. One man does not perceive the conflict—he is sick. The other perceives it and neither moves nor responds—he is even worse. His sense of shame and his self-regard have been amputated and his reason has not been excised but instead has been mutilated.

Should I call this strength? May it not be so, unless I should also it strength when perverts do and say everything that occurs to them in public.”

ε′. Πρὸς τοὺς ᾿Ακαδημαικούς.

῎Αν τις, φησίν, ἐνίστηται πρὸς τὰ ἄγαν ἐκφανῆ, πρὸς τοῦτον οὐ ῥᾴδιόν ἐστιν εὑ<ρεῖν λόγ>ον, δι’ οὗ μεταπείσει τις αὐτόν. τοῦτο δ’ οὔτε παρὰ <τὴν ἐκεί>νου γίνεται δύναμιν οὔτε παρὰ τὴν τοῦ διδάσκοντος ἀσθένειαν, ἀλλ’ ὅταν ἀπαχθεὶς ἀπολιθωθῇ, πῶς ἔτι χρήσηταί τις αὐτῷ διὰ λόγου;

᾿Απολιθώσεις δ’ εἰσὶ διτταί· ἡ μὲν τοῦ νοητικοῦ ἀπολίθωσις, ἡ δὲ τοῦ ἐντρεπτικοῦ, ὅταν τις παρατεταγμένος ᾖ μὴ ἐπινεύειν τοῖς ἐναργέσι μηδ’ ἀπὸ τῶν μαχομένων ἀφίστασθαι. οἱ δὲ πολλοὶ τὴν μὲν σωματικὴν ἀπονέκρωσιν φοβούμεθα καὶ πάντ’ <ἂν> μηχανησαίμεθα ὑπὲρ τοῦ μὴ περιπεσεῖν τοιούτῳ τινί, τῆς ψυχῆς δ’ ἀπονεκρουμένης οὐδὲν ἡμῖν μέλει. καὶ νὴ Δία ἐπὶ αὐτῆς τῆς ψυχῆς ἂν μὲν ᾖ οὕτως διακείμενος, ὥστε μηδεν<ὶ> παρακολουθεῖν μηδὲ συνιέναι μηδέν, καὶ τοῦτον κακῶς ἔχειν οἰόμεθα· ἂν δέ τινος τὸ ἐντρεπτικὸν καὶ αἰδῆμον ἀπονεκρωθῇ, τοῦτο ἔτι καὶ δύναμιν καλοῦμεν.

Καταλαμβάνεις ὅτι ἐγρήγορας; ‘οὔ’, φησίν· ‘οὐδὲ γάρ, ὅταν ἐν τοῖς ὕπνοις φαντάζωμαι, ὅτι ἐγρήγορα’. οὐδὲν οὖν διαφέρει αὕτη ἡ φαντασία ἐκείνης; ‘οὐδέν’. ἔτι τούτῳ διαλέγομαι; καὶ ποῖον αὐτῷ πῦρ ἢ ποῖον σίδηρον προσαγάγω, ἵν’ αἴσθηται ὅτι νενέκρωται; αἰσθανόμενος οὐ προσποιεῖται· ἔτι χείρων ἐστὶ τοῦ νεκροῦ. μάχην οὗτος οὐ συνορᾷ· κακῶς ἔχει. συνορῶν οὗτος οὐ  κινεῖται οὐδὲ προκόπτει· ἔτι ἀθλιώτερον ἔχει. ἐκτέτμηται τὸ αἰδῆμον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐντρεπτικὸν καὶ τὸ λογικὸν οὐκ ἀποτέτμηται, ἀλλ’ ἀποτεθηρίωται. ταύτην ἐγὼ δύναμιν εἴπω; μὴ γένοιτο, εἰ μὴ καὶ τὴν τῶν κιναίδων, καθ’ ἣν πᾶν τὸ ἐπελθὸν ἐν μέσῳ καὶ ποιοῦσι καὶ λέγουσι.

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Mouse Meets Frog: Both Die Terribly

Aesop, Fabula 302

“There was a time when all the animals spoke the same language. A mouse who was on friendly terms with a frog, invited him to dinner and led him into a storehouse of his wealth where he kept his bread, cheese, honey, dried figs and all of his precious things. And he said “Eat whatever you wish, Frog.”

Then the Frog responded: “When you come visit me, you too will have your fill of fine things. But I don’t want you to be nervous, so I will fasten your foot to my foot.” After the Frog bound his foot to the mouse’s and dragging him in this way, he pulled the tied-up mouse into the pond. While he drowned, he said “I am being corpsified by you, but I will be avenged by someone still alive!” A bird who saw the mouse afloat flew down and seized him. The Frog went aloft with him too and thus, the bird slaughtered them both.

A wicked plot between friends is thus a danger to them both”

ΜΥΣ ΚΑΙ ΒΑΤΡΑΧΟΣ
ὅτε ἦν ὁμόφωνα τὰ ζῷα, μῦς βατράχῳ φιλιωθεὶς ἐκάλεσεν αὐτὸν εἰς δεῖπνον καὶ ἀπήγαγεν αὐτὸν εἰς ταμιεῖον πλουσίου, ὅπου ἦν ἄρτος, τυρός, μέλι, ἰσχάδες καὶ ὅσα
ἀγαθά, καί φησιν „ἔσθιε, βάτραχε, ἐξ ὧν βούλει.” ὁ δὲ βάτραχος ἔλεγε• „ἐλθὼν οὖν καὶ σὺ πρὸς ἐμὲ ἐμπλήσθητι τῶν ἀγαθῶν μου. ἀλλ’ ἵνα μὴ ὄκνος σοι γένηται, προσαρτήσω τὸν πόδα σου τῷ ποδί μου.” δήσας οὖν ὁ βάτραχος τὸν πόδα τοῦ μυὸς τῷ ἑαυτοῦ ποδὶ ἥλατο εἰς τὴν λίμνην ἕλκων καὶ τὸν μῦν δέσμιον. ὁ δὲ πνιγόμενος ἔλεγεν• „ἐγὼ μὲν ὑπό σου νεκρωθήσομαι, ἐκδικήσομαι δὲ ὑπὸ ζῶντος.” λούππης δὲ θεασάμενος τὸν μῦν πλέοντα καταπτὰς ἥρπα-σεν. ἐφέλκετο οὖν σὺν αὐτῷ καὶ ὁ βάτραχος καὶ οὕτως ἀμφοτέρους διεσπάραξεν.
ὅτι ἡ τῶν φίλων πονηρὰ συμβουλὴ καὶ ἑαυτοῖς κίνδυνος γίνεται.

Note 1: ὁμόφωνα τὰ ζῷα, “common animal language”: It is unclear whether, in these halcyon days before the fall from linguistic harmony, a Frog would squeak or a Mouse would croak when in the other’s company.

Note 2: ἐμπλήσθητι τῶν ἀγαθῶν :”you will have your fill of good things”. If the Mouse knew his Pindar (῎Αριστον μὲν ὕδωρ, 1.1), he would suspect that the Frog will do what in fact does, which is to fill his lungs with water. This illustrates that good things are in fact relative. A Mouse and Frog will hold different things dear.

This fabula (and more!) appears in our book on the Homeric Battle of the Frogs and Mice. This is a periodic reminder that it exists: Here is Bloomsbury’s Homepage for the book.

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This bad-boy is coming out in paperback soon…

A Plague of Caspian Rats

Aelian, On the Nature of Animals 17.17

“Amyntas in his work which he named Stages writes that in the Caspian land there are many herds of cattle and horses almost beyond counting. He adds this as well, that in some seasons an unconquerable plague of rats blights the land. He continues with evidence, saying that even though the rivers flow at that of year with a huge surge, the rats swim fearlessly and they even hold on to each other’s tales, biting down on one another, to form a bridge and they they cross the strait in this way.

After swimming into the farmland, he says, they grind down the roots of crops and swarm over trees and once they use their fruits for their meals they sever the branches too just because they are not able to eat them. For this reason, the Caspians—in order to ward off this invasion of rats and the ruin they bring—do not kill the predatory birds which come in turn, flying down from the clouds, and fulfill their nature by freeing the Caspians of this plague.

Caspian foxes are so numerous that they frequent both the sheepfolds in the country and they also appear in cities. By Zeus, a fox will show up in a house not to steal something or ruin it, but like some kind of pet. The Caspian foxes wag their tails just like pet dogs in our land.

The rats of the terrible plague afflicting the Caspians are almost the same in size when you look a them as the ikhneumenos of Egypt, but they are wild, and terrible, and they have teeth strong enough to cut and even eat metal. The rats in Teridon, Babylonia are like this too—and traders bring their skins to sell among the Persians. Indeed, these skins are soft and can be sewn together as a tunic to warm people. And they call them kandutanes, because it is dear to them.

Here is something amazing about these rats: if a pregnant female is caught and her fetus is removed, when the female fetus is dissected and examined, it also has a baby.”

᾽Αμύντας ἐν τοῖς ἐπιγραφομένοις οὕτως ὑπ᾽ αὐτοῦ Σταθμοῖς κατὰ τὴν γῆν τὴν Κασπίαν καὶ βοῶν ἀγέλας λέγει πολλὰς καὶ κρείττονας ἀριθμοῦ εἶναι καὶ ἵππων. ἐπιλέγει δὲ ἄρα καὶ ἐκεῖνο, ἐν ὡρῶν τισι περιτροπαῖς μυῶν ἐπιδημίας γίνεσθαι πλῆθος ἄμαχον· καὶ τὸ μαρτύριον ἐπάγει λέγων, τῶν ποταμῶν τῶν ἀεννάων σὺν πολλῶι τῶι ῥοίζωι φερομένων, τοὺς δὲ καὶ μάλα ἀτρέπτως ἐπινήχεσθαί τε αὐτοῖς καὶ τὰς οὐρὰς ἀλλήλων ἐνδακόντας ἕρμα τοῦτο ἴσχειν, καὶ τοῦ διαβάλλειν τὸν πόρον σύνδεσμόν σφισιν ἰσχυρότατον ἀποφαίνει τόνδε.

ἐς τὰς ἀρούρας δὲ ἀπονηξάμενοι, φησί, καὶ τὰ λήια ὑποκείρουσι καὶ διὰ τῶν δένδρων ἀνέρπουσι καὶ τὰ ὡραῖα δεῖπνον ἔχουσι καὶ τοὺς κλάδους δὲ διακόπτουσιν, οὐδὲ ἐκείνους κατατραγεῖν ἀδυνατοῦντες. οὐκοῦν ἀμυνόμενοι οἱ Κάσπιοι τὴν ἐκ τῶν μυῶν ἐπιδρομήν τε ἅμα καὶ λύμην φείδονται τῶν γαμψωνύχων, οἵπερ οὖν καὶ αὐτοὶ κατὰ νέφη πετόμενοι εἶτα αὐτοὺς ἀνασπῶσιν, καὶ ἰδίαι τινὶ φύσει τοῖς Κασπίοις ἀναστέλλουσι τὸν λιμόν. ἀλώπηκες δὲ αἱ Κάσπιαι, τὸ πλῆθος αὐτῶν τοσοῦτόν ἐστιν ὡς καὶ ἐπιφοιτᾶν οὐ μόνον τοῖς αὐλίοις τοῖς κατὰ τοὺς ἀγρούς, ἤδη γε μὴν καὶ ἐς τὰς πόλεις παριέναι. καὶ ἐν οἰκίαι ἀλώπηξ φανεῖται οὐ μὰ Δία ἐπὶ λύμηι οὐδὲ ἁρπαγῆι, ἀλλὰ οἷα τιθασός· καὶ ὑποσαίνουσί τε αἱ Κάσπιοι καὶ ὑπαικάλλουσι τῶν παρ᾽ ἡμῖν κυνιδίων <δίκην>.

οἱ δὲ μύες οἱ τοῖς Κασπίοις ἐπίδημον ὄντες κακόν, μέγεθος αὐτῶν ὅσον κατά γε τοὺς Αἰγυπτίων ἰχνεύμονας ὁρᾶσθαι, ἄγριοι δὲ καὶ δεινοὶ καὶ καρτεροὶ τοὺς ὀδόντας, καὶ διακόψαι τε καὶ διατραγεῖν οἷοί τε εἰσὶ καὶ σίδηρον. τοιοῦτοι δὲ ἄρα καὶ οἱ μύες οἱ ἐν τῆι Τερηδόνι τῆς Βαβυλωνίας (F 7) εἰσίν, ὧνπερ οὖν καὶ τὰς δορὰς οἱ τούτων κάπηλοι ἐς Πέρσας ἄγουσι φόρτον. εἰσὶ δὲ ἁπαλαί, καὶ συνερραμέναι χιτῶνές τε ἅμα γίνονται καὶ ἀλεαίνουσιν αὐτούς. καλοῦνται δὲ ἄρα οὗτοι κανδυτᾶνες, ὡς ἐκείνοις φίλον.

θαυμάσαι δὲ τῶν μυῶν τῶνδε ἄξιον ἄρα καὶ τοῦτο· ἐὰν ἁλῶι μῦς κύουσα, κἆιτα ἐξαιρεθῆι τὸ ἔμβρυον, αὐτῆς δὲ διατμηθείσης ἐκείνης εἶτα μέντοι καὶ αὐτὸ διανοιχθῆι, καὶ ἐκεῖνο ἔχει βρέφος.

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Ste-Genevieve, MS 143 (Taken from Pinterest)

There are not  independent words for rat mouse in Ancient Greek.

μυόβρωτος: “mouse-eaten”

μυοδόχος: “containing mice”

μυοθήρας: “mouse-catcher”

μυοκτόνος: “mouse-killer”

μυομαχία: “a battle of mice”

μυοπάρων: “a small pirate boat”

μυόχοδον: “mouse dung”