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Sappho

Greek: Σαπφω
Who: An ancient Greek lyric poet.
Born: Sometime between 630 and 612 BC
Died: 570 BC
From: Lesbos
Field: Poet

In the Days of Sappho by Godward.

In the Days of Sappho by Godward.

Sappho was an ancient Greek female lyric poet from the 7th and 6th centuries BC, born on the island of Lesbos. She is included in the list of the nine lyric poets, which was a list of archaic Greek composers esteemed by the scholars of Hellenistic Alexandria as worthy of critical study. She was known for her poetry, of which the bulk of it is lost, but her reputation has lived on through surviving fragments.

Sappho’s poetry is based off of passion and love for both genders. The Library of Alexandria collected Sappho’s poetry into nine books, labeled Books I-IX. This collection is small but is still of major importance. Her poems used to be sung, accompanied by music, but that is all lost now. The nature of her poems, which spoke of infatuations and love, inspired the word lesbian which derives from the island that she was born on, Lesbos.

The work of Sappho endured well into Roman times, but eventually as the times were changing her work was copied less and less. Part of the reason for the disappearance of her work was that the predominance of Attic and Homeric Greek were the languages that were required to be studied. Sappho had an Aeolic Greek dialect, a very difficult language, and ancient and arcane by Roman times.

Sappho quotes:

  • “Beauty endures only for as long as it can be seen; goodness, beautiful today, will remain so tomorrow.”
  • “Stand and face me, my love, and scatter the grace in your eyes.”
  • “Although only breath, words which I command are immortal.”
  • “You came and I was longing for you. You cooled a heart that burned with desire.”
  • “Love shook my heart, Like the wind on the mountain, rushing over the oak trees.”
  • “What is beautiful is good, and who is good will soon be beautiful.”
  • “Death must be an Evil – and the gods agree; for why else would they live for ever?”

Videos: Lesbian vs Lesbian – Greece

Sappho’s poem “Kelomai se Gongyla” sung by Nena Venetsanou in the ancient Greek dialect of Lesbos:

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