A Pious Mouse and a Deadly Cat: The Schede tou Myos, attributed to Theodore Prodromos
By Przemysław Marciniak
Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies, Vol. 57 (2017)
Abstract: The text, here translated and commented on, is a school exercise but comic in tone, and so appropriate both for pupils and as court entertainment, as it echoes contemporary criticism of monks.
Introduction: Byzantine literature has no shortage of mice. Anna Komnene describes a Turkish sultan’s dream in which he is attacked by mice which turn into lions. Christophoros of Mytilene and later Eustathios of Thessalonike complain about mice invading their houses; unusually big mice living in Hades appear in the twelfth-century satire Timarion. Finally, mice serve as the protagonists of Theodore Prodromos’ Katomyomachia. Traditionally mice were regarded as greedy creatures who drank the olive oil from lamps and ate people’s food.
Among the texts in which a mouse plays a prominent role is an interesting yet understudied work of the twelfth century, the Schede tou Myos. This work inscribes itself within the traditional depiction of mice as greedy, food-devouring pests. However, it is more than a simple recitation of a common topos but also reflects on the process of learning itself.
Top Image: Mouse in British Library MS Royal 12 C XIX f. 37