Batrachomyomachia: A Classical Parody


The Batrachomyomachia is an ancient comic epic in dactylic hexameter, traditionally attributed to Homer. The poem tells of a war between frogs and mice over possession of both land and water. Ultimately it was decided that neither could claim sole ownership because they would not be able to feed.

Some people might not think the Iliad is worth making fun of so a poem would have been a waste. More geniuses, however, usually laugh at themselves. When an artist realizes how talented he is, he may often see no problem in creating a parody of his own work. It’s worth mentioning that Men like Mozart and Rossini used to create parodies of their own styles by making humorous songs which impersonated them.

Regardless of who wrote the Batrachomyomachia, it is an enjoyable piece of literature. Below is the beginning of the poem:


English translation by George Chapman.

Ἀρχόμενος πρώτης σελίδος χορὸν ἐξ Ἑλικῶνος

ἐλδεῖν εἰς ἐμὸν ἧτορ ἐπεύχομαι εἵνεκ’ ἀοιδῆς,

ἣν νέον ἐν δέλτοισιν ἐμοῖς ἐπὶ γούνασι θῆκα,

δῆριν ἀπειρεσίην, πολεμόκλονον ἔργον Ἄρηος,

εὐχόμενος μερόπεσσιν ἐς οὔατα πᾶσι βαλέσθαι

πῶς μύες ἐν βατράχοισιν ἀριστεύσαντες ἔβησαν,

γηγενέων ἀνδρῶν μιμούμενοι ἔργα Γιγάντων,

ὡς λόγος ἐν θνητοῖσιν ἔην. τοίην δ’ ἔχεν ἀρχήν·

Μῦς ποτε διψαλέος γαλέης κίνδυνον ἀλύξας

πλησίον ἐν λίμνηι λίχνον παρέθηκε γένειον,

ὕδατι τερπόμενος μελιηδέϊ· τὸν δὲ κατεῖδε

λιμνόχαρις πολύφημος, ἔπος δ’ ἐφθέγξατο τοῖον

“Ent’ring the fields, first let my vows call on

The muses whole quire out of Helicon

Into my heart for such a poem’s sake

As lately I did in my table’s take,

and put into report upon my knees

a fight so fierce, as might in all degrees

fit Mars himself, and his tumultuous hand

glorying to dart to th’ ears of every land

of all he voice-divided; and to show

How bravely did both frogs and mice bestow

In glorious fight their forces, even the deeds

during to imitate of Earth’s Giant seeds.

The Mouse once dry, and ‘scaped the dangerous cat,

Drench’d in the neighbour lake her tender beard,

To taste the sweetness of the wave it rear’d.”

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