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

Hesiod is a Gardener; Homer is a Weaver — Simondes fr. 6.3 (Jacoby)

“Simonides said that Hesiod is a gardener while Homer is a garland-weaver—the first planted the legends of the heroes and gods and then the second braided together them the garland of the Iliad and the Odyssey.

GNOMOL. VAT. GR. 1144 (= Hesiod. T 18d Jac): Σιμωνίδης τὸν ῾Ησίοδον κηπουρὸν ἔλεγε, τὸν δὲ ῞Ομηρον στεφανηπλόκον, τὸν μὲν ὡς φυτεύσαντα τὰς περὶ θεῶν καὶ ἡρώων μυθολογίας, τὸν δὲ ὡς ἐξ αὐτῶν συμπλέξαντα τὸν᾿Ιλιάδος καὶ Οδυσσείας στέφανον.

Fragmentary Friday: The Remains of the Lost Archaic (Homeric?) Thebais

We have the remains of an ancient epic called the Thebais that was attributed to ‘Homer’ by multiple sources in antiquity (although most scholars today, following Aristotle, agree that ‘Homer’ = Iliad and Odyssey or something like that). This epic seems to have told the Theban tale from the cursing of Polyneices and Eteocles by Oedipus through the events of the Seven Against Thebes.

“The epic called Thebais was composed about this war. Kallinos, when he comes to mention this epic, says that Homer composed it. Many authors of considerable repute have believed the same thing. And I like this poem especially, after the Iliad and Odyssey at least.”

ἐποιήθη δὲ ἐς τὸν πόλεμον τοῦτον καὶ ἔπη Θηβαΐς• τὰ δὲ ἔπη ταῦτα Καλλῖνος ἀφικόμενος αὐτῶν ἐς μνήμην ἔφησεν ῞Ομηρον τὸν ποιήσαντα εἶναι, Καλλίνῳ δὲ πολλοί τε καὶ ἄξιοι λόγου κατὰ ταὐτὰ ἔγνωσαν• ἐγὼ δὲ τὴν ποίησιν ταύτην μετά γε ᾿Ιλιάδα καὶ τὰ ἔπη τὰ ἐς ᾿Οδυσσέα ἐπαινῶ μάλιστα.
Pausanias, IX 9.5

Fr. 1 (found in The Contest of Homer and Hesiod)

“Goddess, sing of very-thirsty Argos, from where the Leaders [departed for Thebes]”

῎Αργος ἄειδε, θεά, πολυδίψιον, ἔνθεν ἄνακτες

Fr. 2 (Found in Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists)

“Then the god-bred hero, blond Polyneices,
First placed before Oedipus a fine silver platter,
A thing of god-minded Kadmos. And then
He filled a fine golden cup with sweet wine.
But when he noted that lying before him were the
Honored gifts of his own father, a great evil filled his heart.
Quickly he uttered grievous curses against both
Of his own sons—and he did not escape the dread Fury’s notice—
That they would not divide their inheritance in friendship
But that they would both have ceaseless war and battles.”

αὐτὰρ ὁ διογενὴς ἥρως ξανθὸς Πολυνείκης
πρῶτα μὲν Οἰδιπόδηι καλὴν παρέθηκε τράπεζαν
ἀργυρέην Κάδμοιο θεόφρονος• αὐτὰρ ἔπειτα
χρύσεον ἔμπλησεν καλὸν δέπας ἡδέος οἴνου.
αὐτὰρ ὅ γ’ ὡς φράσθη παρακείμενα πατρὸς ἑοῖο
τιμήεντα γέρα, μέγα οἱ κακὸν ἔμπεσε θυμῶι,
αἶψα δὲ παισὶν ἑοῖσιν ἐπ’ ἀμφοτέροισιν ἐπαρὰς
ἀργαλέας ἠρᾶτο• θοὴν δ’ οὐ λάνθαν’ ᾿Ερινύν•
ὡς οὔ οἱ πατρώϊ’ ἐνηέι φιλότητι
δάσσαιντ’, ἀμφοτέροισι δ’ ἀεὶ πόλεμοί τε μάχαι τε

fr.4 (Found in Scholion to Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus, 1375)

“When [Oedipus] noticed the cut of meat, he hurled it to the ground and spoke:
‘Alas, my children have sent this as a reproach to me…’
He prayed to King Zeus and the other gods
That they would go to Hades’ home at each other’s hands.

ἰσχίον ὡς ἐνόησε, χαμαὶ βάλεν εἶπέ τε μῦθον•
‘ὤ μοι ἐγώ, παῖδες μέγ’ ὀνειδείοντες ἔπεμψαν …’
εὖκτο Διὶ βασιλῆϊ καὶ ἄλλοις ἀθανάτοισι
χερσὶν ὑπ’ ἀλλήλων καταβήμεναι ῎Αιδος εἴσω.