Sappho

Circa 630 BCE - Circa 570 BCE

Plato referred to her as “The 10th Muse.” Horace wrote in his Odes that her lyrics are worthy of sacred admiration. Despite living a mere 30 years, Sappho remains one of the greatest poets of ancient Greece and one of the most famous in all European history. Her home was the Greek Island of Lesbos in the Aegean Sea. Though married to a wealthy merchant and having a daughter named Cleis, her words of longing for various female loves have been central to lesbian cultural ethos for centuries. So much so that the island of her birth became the basis for the word lesbian and a variation of her own name is now literary shorthand for female homosexual desire.  Sappho inspired young women to cultivate social skills, discuss literature, and to worship Aphrodite, the goddess of love and sexuality. She wrote love poems in tribute to these intense relationships and shared them with both her family and the women of her salon. She was unique in that her poetry was written not in homage to the gods or for political reasons, as was the fashion of the day; rather her work was of a personal nature and is celebrated for its passionate descriptions of emotion and simple lyrical beauty. Of her verse, nine volumes of poetry have been recovered, almost all in mere fragmented form. The tragic loss of so much of her writing is often attributed to the age of the papyrus upon which the words were written; others contend that its homoerotic nature made it subject to purposeful destruction by the Church; whatever the reason, that which survives has moved and inspired people of all backgrounds for millennia.

Sappho Statue

Demography

Gender Female

Sexual Orientation Lesbian

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated Greece

Era/Epoch Antiquity/Ancient History (beginning of recorded history-476 CE)

Field(s) of Contribution

Poet

Resources

Related Images

Sappho Painting

Sappho Painting by Karl Agricola Circa 1839

Sappho's Hometown Mytilene on the Island of Lesbos

Related Videos

BBC Ideas Report on What to Learn From Sappho

Its History Episode The Queen of Lesbos Poetess Sappho

Authorship

Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Victor Salvo
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell