Known for: early poetry written by a woman poet, including some poems about love of women for women. "Lesbian" comes from the island, Lesbos, where Sappho lived.
About Sappho of Lesbos
Sappho, a poet of ancient Greece, is known through her work: ten books of verse published by the third and second centuries B.C.E. By the Middle Ages, all copies were lost. Today what we know of the poetry of Sappho is only through quotations in the writings of others. Only one poem from Sappho survives in complete form, and the longest fragment of Sappho poetry is only 16 lines long.
The poems of Sappho are more personal and emotional than political or civic or religious, especially compared to her contemporary, the poet Alcaeus.
Sappho lived in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos, where women often congregated and, among other social activities, shared poetry they'd written. Sappho's poems usually focus on the relationships among women.
This focus has given rise to speculation that Sappho's interest in women was what today would be called homosexual or lesbian. (The word "lesbian" comes from the island of Lesbos and the communities of women there.) This may be an accurate description of Sappho's feelings towards women, but it may also be accurate that it was more acceptable in the past -- pre-Freud -- for women to express strong passions towards one another, whether the attractions were sexual or not.
More women's history biographies, by name:
Also on This Site
- Sappho Pictures - an image gallery of artistic depictions of the poet Sappho
- Ancient Greece - Women
- Ancient Women Writers
- Women Writers
- The Love Songs of Sappho (Literary Classics)
by Sappho, et al. 1999.
- Sappho: A New Translation
by Mary Barnard (Translator), Dudley Fitts. Reissue 1999.
- The Sappho Companion
by Margaret Reynolds (Editor). 2001.
- The Laughter of Aphrodite: A Novel About Sappho of Lesbos
by Peter Green
Sappho Elsewhere on About
- A Yokepair of Opposites
N. S. Gill, About's Guide to Ancient and Classical History, on contemporary lyric poets Sappho and Alcaeus. Includes an overview of Sappho's work.
Esther Lombardi, About's Guide to Classic Literature, on Sappho
Laughter of Aphrodite
N. S. Gill, About's Guide to Ancient and Classical History, reviews a novel about the "historical mystery" of Sappho's life.
Sappho Elsewhere on the Web
- Sacred Texts
Etext of the 1925 translation of The Poems of Sappho by Edwin Marion Cox, with a translation (2000) by J. B. Hare. Introduction by J. B. Hare.
From the "Mythography" site, a brief introduction of Sappho emphasizing her references to Aphrodite, goddess of love.
- Exploring the History of Art
Image and information on the 1872 painting "Sappho on the Cliff"by Gustave Moreau.
- Isle of Lesbos
On a website devoted to lesbian women poets and named for Sappho, this page outlines her known life, works, and suggests further readings.