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Sappho (c. 620 - 570 BCE) was an Ancient Greek teacher[2] and lyrical poet.[1]

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Life

Sappho was born on the Greek island of Lesbos sometime around 620 BCE.[1] It is well-attributed that she came from an aristocratic family,[1][3][4] and records suggest that she was the only daughter of four children of Skamandronymous and Cleïs.[5][6][7] According to Ovid's Heriodes, her father died when she was seven.[7] She is thought to have had one child of her own, named Cleïs after her mother - as was traditional - though some historians speculate, based on Sappho's own poems, that this person may have been a younger lover.[6]

Sappho was incredibly popular at the time and was honored in coinage and pottery long after her death.[1][4] However, very little of her work has survived, for a myriad of reasons; notably that she wrote in Aeolic Greek,[1] a dialect that Latin translators of the time could not read,[4] and though she was quite prolific, her work has simply been lost over the centuries. New discoveries have been made as recently as 2013, and one contemporary discovery in 2004 completed a fragmented poem for the first time in decades.[8]

Sexuality

While the terms lesbian and sapphic are both attributed to Sappho and her poems, controversy remains as to her own sexuality.[9] Both hetero- and homosexual (in the contemporary definition) legends of Sappho exist; for example, one story has her married to Kerkylas, a wealthy man from Andros,[4][note 1] while a second story ends with her suicide into the sea due to her unrequited love to Phaon, a sailor.[4] Historically, translators have heterosexualized Sappho's poems, and masculinized the objects of her affection; however, contemporary historians generally accept that her poems portray homoerotic feelings.[9]

Notes

  1. This particular story has been debated as being only for comedic value, as Kerkylas of Andros can be translated as "Penis of Man".[6][9]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Mark, Joshua J.: "Sappho of Lesbos" (June 10, 2021). worldhistory.org. World History.
  2. "About Sappho". poets.org. Poets.org.
  3. Carstairs, Irene: "Damn, Girl - Sappho, and her Immortal Daughters" (June 20, 2019). thathistorynerd.com. That History Nerd.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 "Sappho". britannica.com. Encycolpaedia Britannica.
  5. "Sappho". poetryfoundation.org. Poetry Foundation.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 queerstorian: "Sappho" (April 7, 2019). worldqueerstory.org. World Queerstory.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Sappho Biography - Facts, Childhood, Family Life & Achievements". thefamouspeople.com. The Famous people.
  8. Johnson, Margureite: "Guide to the classics: Sappho, a poet in fragments" (February 12, 2018). theconversation.com.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Mendelsohn, Daniel: "How Gay Was Sappho?" (March 9, 2014). newyorker.com. The New Yorker.
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