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File:Mouse-on-a-Frog 9476.jpg

Photographic evidence of Puff-jaw, just about to coldheartedly leave Crumb-snatcher to his death.


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
Batrachomyomachia, Lines 1-6[1]

The Batrachomyomachia (Βατραχομυομαχία[2]) is an ancient Greek epic in the tradition of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, which tackles the grave subjects of war and revenge, as the accidental murder of a prince leads the two armies into conflict.

Two armies composed of mice and frogs, respectively.

One of the ancient "Beast Epics"[3], the Batrachomyomachia details a day-long battle between mice and frogs as a mock epic, parodying the genre (and making Parody Older Than Feudalism). The approximately three-hundred line poem's authorship is disputed: the Romans attributed it to Homer, while Plutarch called it the work of Pigres of Halicarnassus. Some modern scholars remain unconvinced and point instead to a poet in the time of Alexander the Great.

The mouse prince Crumb-snatcher[4] comes to a lake for a drink when he encounters Puff-jaw[5], king of the frogs. They meet cordially, and Puff-jaw offers to bear his guest across the lake to his home. In the middle of the lake, however, a watersnake appears and the panicked Puff-jaw dives for safety, leaving the hapless Crumb-snatcher to drown.

His death is witnessed by the mice and, of course, This Means War

And so their day-long battle is described with all the elements of the epic genre: arming scenes[6], divine participation[7], character epithets, epic battle scenes, etc. A plethora of epic conventions, all used to describe warring mice and frogs. Thus in modern times, the word "batrachomyomachia" and its various translations has come to mean "a silly conflict."

The mock epic is available online here in the ancient Greek; in English here.

Tropes used in Batrachomyomachia include:
  1. (Beginning, first I pray to the choir to come down from Helicon / into my heart on account of the song of the page, / which I newly placed in writing on my knee, / that immense conflict, that clamorous deed of Ares, / praying to cast in all ears of mortals / how the mice proved their valour on the frogs)
  2. (Frog-Mouse Battle)
  3. (There also existed the lost Γερανομαχία, Ἀραχνομαχία, and Ψαρομαχία: battles of cranes, spiders, and sparrows)
  4. (Ψιχάρπαξ)
  5. (Φυσίγναθος)
  6. (bean-pod greaves, skin breastplates, and peanut-shell helmets for the mice; mallow-leaf greaves, beet-leaf breastplates, and snail-shell helmets for the frogs)
  7. (Except for much of the battle the gods prefer to amuse themselves watching than help either side)
  8. (Ὀριγανίων)
  9. (Μεριδάρπαξ)
  10. (Λειχοπίναξ)