By André Bastos Gurgel, OAB
Today we’ll be looking at a comic epic called Batrachomyomachia (“Battle of Frogs and Mice”), a parody of Homer’s Iliad. Its authorship has been disputed, though most scholars today believe it is the work of an anonymous poet from the time of Alexander the Great. Ancient authors claimed that Homer himself was the author.
Some people might think that Homer, arguably the greatest of all epic writers, would never write a poem that makes fun of the Iliad. Many geniuses, however, usually have a sense of humor. After all, 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 humorous songs which were parodies of their own styles.
No matter who the author of the Batrachomyomachia is, it is a most enjoyable piece of literature. Below is the beginning of the poem with 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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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
André Bastos Gurgel, OAB (Order of Attorneys of Brazil), Academic Advisor for the Carmenta Online Latin School, is a life-long student of both modern and ancient languages. Mr. Gurgel is fluent in English, Portuguese, Latin, Mandarin, Spanish, French, Italian, and German and has a working knowledge of Danish, Hebrew, Ancient Greek, and Sanskrit. He has also worked as a tutor and teacher in a number of languages. Mr. Gurgel has been instrumental in expanding the Carmenta Online Latin School’s presence in a variety of social media.
Click here to read Mr. Gurgel’s full profile.