Today, at 3 PM EDT, Reading Greek Tragedy Online brings you the first ever Live Streaming performance of the Homeric Batrakhomuomakhia (“The Battle of the Frogs and Mice”). Murder, Mice, Mayhem, and More!
We will be using A. E. Stallings’ translation and hosting the poet as guest, expert, and witness to the parodic slaughter!
A. E. Stalling
Rene Thornton Jr.
Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre)
Host and Faculty Consultant: Joel Christensen (Brandeis University)
Producers: Keith DeStone (Center for Hellenic Studies), Hélène Emeriaud, Janet Ozsolak, and Sarah Scott (Kosmos Society)
Director of Outreach: Amy Pistone (Gonzaga University)
Poster Illustration Artist: John Koelle
About the Battle of the Frogs and Mice (from Corinne Pache, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Homer)
The Batrakhomuomakhia (“The Battle of Frogs and Mice”, also Batrakhomakhia) is an example of epic parody (cf. Margites) and animal epics dated to the 6th through 4th centuries BCE or later (Suda lists “Battle of the Cranes”, Geranomakhia; and “Battle of the Spiders”, Arakhnomakhia; fragments remain of a “Weasel and Mouse War”). The poem’s contents (archaic diction and meter combined with elements from Attic Tragedy and Hellenistic authors) indicates later composition or editing. Ancient authors confirm this range of time: Plutarch (Agesilaus 15.4) has Alexander the Great referring to a Batrakhomakhia; the parody’s language echoes Anacreon (line 78 = fr. 460 PMG; see Bliquez 1977, 12).
The poem’s authorship is uncertain: Hellenistic sources attribute it to Homer; later sources credit Pigres of Halicarnassus (Plutarch, De Heroditi Malignitate 873). References to Athena, possible allusions to her rituals, and suggestive toponyms have suggested Athenian origins. Ancient testimonies report competitions for parody in the Greater Panathenaea during the 4th century BCE, but Aristotle places the parodic work of the Margites and Hipponax in the previous century (Poetics 1448b38-9a2). Although there is insufficient evidence to place the Batrakhomuomachia in this performance context, as a later composition it probably drew on oral performances and textual editions for influence. Indeed, its opening conceit echoes both the language of performance and literary composition (mention of Heliconian chorus, χορὸν ἐξ ῾Ελικῶνος, and “song”, εἵνεκ’ ἀοιδῆς, next to writing tablets: ἣν νέον ἐν δέλτοισιν ἐμοῖς ἐπὶ γούνασι θῆκα; 1-3). Whether or not there was an oral tradition of epic parody separate from or prior to the Athenian context, it seems likely that there were regular conventions shaping the practice and performance of parody. Hellenistic and later authors attest to a longstanding tradition from Classical Greece into the Roman Imperial period of written parodies in mixed meter as well as in dactylic hexameter.
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.
A short Bibliography
Lawrence J. Bliquez. “Frogs and Mice and Athens.” TAPA 107 (1977) 11-25.
J. P. Christensen and E. Robinson. The Homeric Battle of Frogs and Mice. Bloombsury, 2018.
Adrian Kelly. “Parodic Inconsistency: Some Problems in the ‘BATRAKHOMYOMAKHIA.” JHS 129 (2009) 45-51.
Fusillo. La Battaglia delle rane e dei topi. Batrachomyomachia. Guerini e Associati: Milan, 1988.
Glei. Die Batrachomyomachie. Frankfurt Am Main, 1984.
M. Hosty. Batrachomuomakhia: Introduction, Text, Translation, and Commentary. 2020. Oxford.
Ludwich. Die Homerische Batrachommachia des Karers Pigres nebst Scholien und Paraphrase. Leipzig, 1896.
D. Olson and A. Sens. Matro if Pitane and the Tradition of Epic Parody in the Fourth Century BCE. Atlanta, 1999.
A. Rzach, “Homeridai,” RE 8 (1913) 2170.
S. Schibli. “Fragments of a Weasel and Mouse War.” ZPE 53 (1983) 1-25.
Ruth Scodel. “Stupid, Pointless Wars.” TAPA 138 (2008) 219-235.
A. E. Stallings. The Battle Between the Frogs and Mice: A Tiny Homeric Epic. Paul Dry Books, 2019.
M.L. West. Homeric Hymns, Homeric Apocrypha, Lives of Homer. Cambridge, MA, 2003
H. Wölke. Untersuchungen zur Batrachomyomachie. Meisenheim am Glan. 1978.
P.S.: Look out for something like this