009- Sappho

Sappho and Erinna in the Garden Mytelene by Simeon Solomon. Fine Art Photographic Library/Corbis via Getty Images
Sappho and Erinna in the Garden Mytelene by Simeon Solomon. Fine Art Photographic Library/Corbis via Getty Images

Sappho of Lesbos was a lyrical poet in the times of ancient Greece, and beyond. She was honored in statuary and praised by figures such as Solon and Plato. Much like the tales of Robin Hood, there are disputes on whether Sappho was a myth or an actual being. We know someone wrote poetry using this name so I will let you be the judge.
Very little is known of her life and of the nine volumes of her work which were widely read in antiquity only fragments survived. My understanding, many were aware that once there had existed a highly praised female poet from the actions of others, and they preserved those poems. Some written works were composed concerning her during her lifetime or shortly after because later writers knew the outline of her life but, aside from inscriptions.

She is one of the first songwriters we know of or at least wrote songs down. She is also on the first people to refer to the moon as a sliver, we see as a collective term today.

Sappho style was melodic and sensual; she wrote songs and poems of love, lust, and yearning for more. The target of her affections was mostly female, and often girls who were selected and sent to study art with her. She has a deep connection with these women that when they left, she would often write wedding songs for them. Sappho’s poetry was applauded in her time for its homoerotic content (though scholars disparaged it later), suggesting that in ancient Greece people were open to same-sex relationships. It is speculated that in the later times her works were destroyed due to same-sex relationships being rejected by churches and dignitaries.

Sappho has remained an important cultural and literal figure; her works continue to be studied and translated. Speculation on her life remains popular in the form of fictionalized tales and ardent research. For a woman who has been dead for over two thousand years, this is quite an achievement.

Sappho Quotes:

“You may forget / but let me tell you this / someone in some future time  /will think of us” Sappho, The Art of Loving Women

“their heart grew cold / they let their wings down” 

Sappho, If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho

“Stand and face me, my love, / and scatter the grace in your eyes.”

Sappho, Sweetbitter Love: Poems of Sappho

“What is beautiful is good, and who is good will soon be beautiful.” 

Sappho

“What cannot be said will be wept.” 

Sappho

“The gleaming stars all about the shining moon / Hide their bright faces, when full-orbed and splendid / In the sky she floats, flooding the shadowed earth / with clear silver light.”

Sappho

References

  • Bolen, Jean Shinoda. Goddesses in Everywoman.: A New Psychology of Women. New York; NY, 1984. 15-17.
  • Fantham, Elaine, Helen Peet Foley, Natalie Boymel Kampen, Sarah B. Pomeroy, and Alan H. Shapiro. Women in the Classical World. New York, 1994.
  • Garland, Robert. “Mother and Child in the Greek World.” History Today 36.3 (1986):40.
  • Latimore, Richmond. The Odyssey of Homer: A Modern Translation. New York: Evanston, 1967.29.
  • Lefkowitz, Mary R., and Maureen B. Fant. Women’s Life in Greece and Rome. Maryland: Baltimore, 1982.
  • Katz, Marilyn A. “Sappho and Her Sisters: Women in Ancient Greece.” Journal of Women in Culture & Society 25.2 (2000): 505-532.
  • Murnaghan, Sheila. Introduction. Odyssey. By Homer.Trans. Stanley Lombardo. Cambridge, 2000. xl-lxiii.
  • Pantel, Pauline Schmitt, ed. A History of Women in the West: I. From Ancient Goddesses to Christian Saints. Massachusetts: Cambridge, 1992. 18-33.
  • Pomeroy, Sarah B. Goddesses, Whores, Wives and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity. New York. 1975.
  • Seltman, Charles. Women in Antiquity. 1956. Connecticut: Westport, 1979.
  • Sappho. The Lyric Songs of the Greeks; the extant fragments of Sappho, Alcaeus, Anacreon, and the minor Greek monodists. Trans. William Peterson. Boston: Badger, 1918. 13-50. < http://www.classicpersuasion.org/pw/sappho/sappeter.htm&gt;

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