Sappho, Ancient Greek Poet

Sappho was one of the only well-known ancient Greek women poets. Born between 630 and 612 B.C., Sappho lived an affluent life where she spent her days on the isle of Lesbos, writing poetry and studying the arts. Sappho was what was known as a lyrist--a person who wrote poems to be accompanied in performance by a lyre player. Sappho wrote her own music.

Sappho was part of a new class of Greek poets who were starting to write from the point of view of themselves--as individual, highly personal beings--rather than from the eyes of Greek gods and goddesses.

Her poems were emotional and personal, commonly dealing with her deep feelings for other women. Many people today consider her writings to be homosexual in nature and an example of early lesbianism, yet no one is sure whether she was displaying true sexual affection toward other women and was interesting in dating them, or she simply had strong nonsexual feelings for them. Either way, Sappho was not persecuted for her poems in ancient times. This shows that people may have been more receptive and open to strong displays of emotions for members of the same sex, whether the feeling were sexual or not. The words "lesbian" and "sapphire" were derived regarding Sappho--"lesbian" from the isle of Lesbos, where women often congregated, and "sapphire" come from the name Sappho.

All of Sappho's poetry, except for one poem, only exist in fragments today. Her poems are available in many different translations that put a slightly different spin on the original meaning. No one knows if the original poems were lost simply through the aging process or if they were later purposely destroyed by prejudiced people.

Here are some popular links for information regarding Sappho's life, poetry, and eroticism:

Isle of Lesbos: Poetry of Sappho contains detailed information on Sappho's life, along with other art and culture of lesbian and bisexual women.

The Divine Sappho contains fragments of Sappho's poems in different translations, along with other relevant links.

"Sappho and Phaon" by Mary Robinson is a 1796 piece of literature inspired by Sappho.

About.Com: Women's History page features a short, easy-to-read guide on Sappho.

Sacred-Texts links to all known poems of Sappho, as translated by Edwin Marion Cox in 1925.

Scholarship Editions features the book "Reading Sappho: Contemporary Approaches" edited by Ellen Greene. This book, which can be read online, is a scholarly examination of the poet's works and social meanings.

The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender & Queer Encyclopedia features an entry on Sappho and contains information of the beginning of lesbianism.

Middlebury College professor William Harris wrote "Sappho and the World of Lesbian Poetry," an essay that serves as a thorough introduction to Sappho and her work.

Poetry Archives includes translations of Sappho's poetry by Mary Bernard.

Bureau of Public Secrets compares different translations of Sappho's poem of jealousy.

University of Houston has a page full of Sappho's poems and fragments, as translated by Julia Dubnoff.

The Academy of American Poets contains a brief, yet thorough, history of Sappho.

The Boston Review features an interesting article by John D'Agata called "Stripped-Down Sappho" that discusses what is revealed with a new translation of her works.

Bloodaxe Books profiles Sappho in its author database.

Bryn Mawr Classical Review also features an articles discussing the excitement of a new translation.

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