6th through 4th centuries BCE or later


The Battle of Frogs and Mice



The Batrakhomuomakhia (“The Battle of Frogs and Mice”, also Batrakhomakhia) is our sole extant full example of epic parody. It is dated to the 6th through 4th centuries BCE or later. The poem’s contents indicate later composition or editing.

Hellenistic sources attribute authorship to Homer; later sources credit Pigres of Halicarnassus. Although there is insufficient evidence to place the Batrakhomuomachia in a specific performance context, as a later composition it probably drew on oral performances and textual editions for influence. 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.

Illustration from an 1878 German edition of the Batrachomyomachia. Pseudo-Homer, Der Froschmäusekrieg. Deutsche Übersetzung (in vierhebigen Jamben) von Victor Blüthgen, illustriert von Fedor Flinzer. Frankfurt am Main 1878. Source:

Close readings of the parody reveal a deep engagement with Homeric language and themes. The poem’s plot features a friendship between a frog (Physignathus, “Puffing-Jaw”) and a mouse (Psikharpaks, “Crumb-thief”) that, following the mouse’s death by falling from the frog’s back during a pond-crossing (86-99), results in heroic combat between their ‘tribes’, culminating in a mouse victory (aided by crabs sent by Zeus). The poem also features heroic genealogies, grandiose speeches, type-scenes, a use of paradeigma (e.g., Europa and Zeus), a divine council and divine intervention. At times, the poem may provide parody of the Iliad specifically (e.g., the frog’s father is named Peleus [19]). Recent scholarship has argued that the parody is engaged in serious—albeit indirect—literary criticism. Inconsistencies in the poem, as when combatants die only to reappear, have been seen by some as intentional imitations of a ‘nodding Homer’ rather than evidence of manuscript corruption.

The poem is very funny at times and attests to deep engagement with different generic traditions, including animal fable, parodic animal epic, the language of tragedy and comedy, as well as traditional epic and myth. Most scholars do believe that there was a performance tradition of poems like the Batrakhomuomakhia, but there is a general consensus that this poem does not come directly from such a context. The poem has attracted new interest over the past few years, including a short student commentary and translation by Joel Christensen and Erik Robinson, a longer scholarly commentary by Matthew Hosty, and a lively new translation by A. E. Stallings.

Joel Christensen
Brandeis University
Adapted from “Homer’s Batrakhomuomakhia,” in The Cambridge Guide to Homer, edited by Corinne Ondine Pache (2020), 106-107.



Hosty, Matthew. “The Mice of Ithaca: Homeric Models in the Batrachomyomachia.” Mnemosyne, vol. 67, no. 6, 2014, pp. 1008–1013., doi:10.1163/1568525x-12301475.

Kelly, Adrian. “Hellenistic Arming in the Batrachomyomachia.” The Classical Quarterly, vol. 64, no. 1, 2014, pp. 410–413., doi:10.1017/S0009838813000840.6

Martin, Paul. “Review: Batrachomyomachia (Battle of the Frogs and Mice): Introduction, Text, Translation, and Commentary by Matthew Hosty.” Bryn Mawr Classical Review, Bryn Mawr College, 20 Sept. 2020.


  • Image from Der Froschmäusekrieg. Deutsche Übersetzung (in vierhebigen Jamben) von Victor Blüthgen, illustriert von Fedor Flinzer. Frankfurt am Main 1878.
  • Skaarup, Bjørn Okholm. Batrachomyomachia. 2016, Bjørn Okholm Skaarup Art.
  • Skaarup, Bjørn Okholm. Micenaen Horse. 2016, Bjørn Okholm Skaarup Art.
  • Twombly, Cy. Batrachomyomachia, painted bronze. 1998, Gagosian, London, Art Blart.
  • Sydhagen, Emil. Batrachomyomachia (Battle of Mice and Frogs),  watercolor painting, 2014, Ownetic. 
  • Turek, Jan. Batrachomyomachia, ink drawing, 2012, Behance. 

Stratakis, Ioannis. Batrachomyomachia by “Homer” (Spoken Reconstructed Ancient Greek Pronunciation). Podium Arts, YouTube, 6 Dec. 2018.

Cain, Rob. “Batrachomyomachia”, Ancient Rome Refocused. ep. 22., composition by Matthew Leigh Embleton, Google Podcasts, 2 Oct. 2020.