Sappho
(c.650-590BC)

Sappho was the first known female poet, and she lived on the island Lesbos. Little is known about her, but she seems to have been of noble family, married to a rich man from Androsm, with whom she had a daughter, Cleis.
Her contemporary poet Alcaios was allegedly her lover, but there is also a legend that states that she leaped to her death from a rock when her love for the young sailor Phan was not returned.

It is believed Sappho ran a school for young women, and many of her poems are love declarations to her pupils. She also wrote their bridal odes when they left to be married.

Sappho was worshipped by the ancient world, and an anecdote tells us how Solon the Wise once heard one of her poems and asked to immediately learn it. When asked what the rush was he answered: "Learn this and then die".

Plato called her the tenth muse. Roman poets like Catullus and Ovid were also inspired by her. From the poet Anacraon, a generation after Sappho, this we have the word lesbian, meaning love between women. The poet said that Sappho had sexual feelings for her students.
Sappho invented the Sapphis, a verseform where the three first lines have 11 syllables, and the fourth has five.

"On this dark earth, some say
the thing most lovely
Is a host of horsemen, some,
lines of foot soldiers
Others a fleet of ships, but I say
it is the sight
Of the one you love."

Sappho, Fragments


WebmistressV.E.K. Sandels
All the material on this site is protected by copyright law. The texts, photographs, drawings and animations may not be copied and displayed in any way without written permission.